Robert E. Lee (January 19, 1807 – October 12, 1870), was a career
United States Army officer, an engineer, and among the most celebrated generals
in American history. Lee was the son of Major General Henry Lee III "Light Horse
Harry" (1756–1818), Governor of Virginia, and his second wife, Anne Hill Carter
(1773–1829). Robert E. Lee was also related to Meriwether Lewis (1774 -
A top graduate of West Point, Robert E. Lee distinguished himself as an exceptional soldier in the U.S. Army for thirty-two years. He is best known for commanding the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia in the American Civil War.
Continuing in the military tradition of his father, Lee entered West Point in
1825 and graduated second in his class in 1829. Serving various military duties
in Georgia, Virginia, New York, Texas, and Mexico over the next 23 years, Lee's
reputation increased in recognition and respectability, and in 1852 he was named
superintendant of West Point. From February of 1860 until February of 1861, Lee
commanded the Department of Texas -- the largest number of troops he had ever
commanded. It was during this time that the secession movment began, and Lee had
to evaluate his position as a Whig devoted to the Union and as a Virginian. At
this point, he did not agree with the political and economic arguments for
Southern independence. Though, unfortunate as the choice was, if pressed to
choose between fighting for Virginia or for the Union, Lee realized the decision
would be simple. Lee's loyalities proved to be on the side of the South because
of his family tradition in and association with the state of Virginia.
On April 18, 1861 Robert E. Lee was offered field command of the United States Army. On the following day, Robert E. Lee received word that Virginia had seceeded from the Union; Robert E. Lee submitted his letter of resignation from the United States Army on April 20. Three days later, Lee accepted the position of commander of Virginia forces. From this point onward, Lee's identity became intrinsically linked to the Confederate cause. At the age of 55, on May 31, 1862, Robert E. Lee was assigned to command the troops which he named "The Army of Northern Virginia". During the Civil War he worked closely with Jefferson Davis, J.E.B. Stuart. He is best known for his victories in the Battle of second Manassas (second Bull Run), and the Battle of Chancellorsville. Named General-In-Chief of all Confederate Armies on February 6, 1865, his tenure in this position was cut short by his surrender to General Grant at the Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865, thus ending the Civil War.
After the war, Robert E. Lee returned to Richmond. During the last five years of his life, he served as President of Washington College in Lexington, Virginia, and he was indicted for treason though never brought to trial. Lee was stricken on September 28, 1870 in Lexington and died a few weeks later on October 12. Robert E. Lee was buried in Lexington and remembered as an educator, a soldier, and a Christian gentleman who lived his life with dignity.
Robert E. Lee has been compared to General George Washington in terms of the
respect which he earned from his soldiers, his region, and the nation.
This Robert E. Lee Biography Page is Copyright © 2004 - 2009 Chuck Ayoub