Robert E. Lee Robert E. Lee has always been thought by many as a god-like figure. To others he was a contradiction. Born on January 19, 1807 at Stratford, Virginia, Robert E.
Lee was the fourth child of Revolutionary War hero, Henry Light Horse Harry Lee, and Ann Hill Carter Lee. Raised mostly by his mother, Robert learned patience, control, and discipline from her. As a young man, he was exposed to Christianity and accepted its faith. In contrast to the strong example of his mother and the church, Robert saw his father go from failed enterprise to failed enterprise. As a result, young Robert tried harder to succeed.
Robert was accepted to the United States Military Academy and graduated 2nd in his class. But perhaps greater than his academic success, was his record of no demerits while being a cadet, which today has still not been equaled. Following his graduation, Lee, like most top classmen, was given a commission as an engineer. As Lt. Lee helped build the St.
Louis waterfront and worked on coastal forts in Brunswick and Savannah. It was during this time he married Mary Custis, the granddaughter of George Washington and Martha Custis Washington. In 1845, the war between the United States and Mexico broke out. Lee was given the important duties of mapping out the terrain ahead, dividing the line of advance for the U.S. troops, and in one case, leading troops into battle. Following the Mexican War, Lee returned to the service as an engineer.
Now a Colonel, Lee was sent to put down a believed rebellion at Harpers Ferry, Virginia, the site of a United States arsenal. A train rushed Colonel Lee and a young aide, Lt. Jeb Stuart, with a detachment of U.S. marines to Harper’s Ferry where they were able to capture radical abolitionist, John Brown, and his followers. Lee next, offered his services to the newly elected President of the Confederate States of America, Jefferson Davis. When President Davis accepted Lees offer, Lee was made a general in the CSA service.
At first, General Lee served as an advisor to President Davis and the Secretary of War. His first campaign, in what later became West Virginia, was not successful. However, his boldness and strategy made him a formidable match for every general that President Lincoln sent against him until Grant defeated him in the Battle of Attrition. Lee’s greatest victory was the Battle of Chancellorsville in May of 1863. Lee was faced with a larger army led by fighting Joe Hooker.
Lee and his most trusted lieutenant, General Stonewall Jackson, divided their forces, and through a forced march around General Hooker, fell on his exposed flank, rolling it up, and defeating the union forces yet again. The greatest land battle in the Western Hemisphere was fought at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, on the 1st, 2nd and 3rd of July, 1863. The Army of Northern Virginia, led by Lee, and the Army of the Potomac, led by newly appointed General George Meade, hammered each other. On the 3rd day of battle, General Lee, hoping to end the war, ordered the great frontal assault popularly known as Pickett’s Charge. After the failure of the attack, General Lee blamed only himself, but Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia fought on for two more years.
General Lee surrendered at Appomatox Court House on April 9, 1865. This effectively brought the American Civil War to an end as other Confederate field commanders followed Lee’s example. Following the war, Lee was almost tried as a traitor, but only had his civil rights suspended. Lee was offered the post of President of Washington University, where he served until his death in 1870. The school was later renamed Washington and Lee.
As a final note, President Gerald Ford had Lee’s citizenship restored. General Lee was a great strategic war general. He won many great battles for the Confederacy. The biggest battle he won was the Battle of Chancellorsville, which was against a larger Union army. Lee was brave and never lost faith in his army.
Bibliography Works Cited Cayton, Andrew, Elisabeth Perry, Linda Reed, and Allan Winkler. America Pathways to the Present. Needham, Massachusetts: Prentice Hall. 2000. Williams, Kenneth. “Robert Edward Lee.” 1996-2000. http://www.ruf.rice.edu/~pjdavis/lee.htm. Online. AOL.
19 Feb. 2000. The World Book Encyclopedia. p. 176-180, vol. 12.
USA: World Book, Inc. 1989.