"It is well that war is so terrible, else men would love it too much.<7i>
General Robert E. Lee, Fredericksburg, 1862
Robert Edward Lee was born in Stratford, Virginia on January 19, 1807 - the son of famous Revolutionary War hero Henry "Light- Horse Harry Lee. The young Robert was a natural leader and graduated second in his class at West Point Military Academy.
After serving under General Winfield Scott during the Mexican War, Lee returned to West Point to serve as superintendent of the school from 1852 to 1855. Eager for action, he accepted the rank of lieutenant colonel in the U.S Army Cavalry. On October 16, 1859, he led the company of U.S. Marines that captured John Brown during the abolitionist's raid on the federal armory at Harpers Ferry.
When war between the states appeared imminent, President Abraham Lincoln offered full command of the Union's field forces to Lee - he declined the promotion. Though he deeply opposed secession, his loyalty remained with his beloved Virginia. The possibility of drawing his sword against his home state was unthinkable. When Virginia seceded in 1861, Lee resigned from the U.S. Army and accepted command within the Confederate Army.
As General of the Army of Northern Virginia, Lee employed shrewd battle planning and sheer audacity to outwit the larger, better equipped Union forces. With victories at Richmond, Bull Run and Fredericksburg, Lee earned the devotion of every soldier who served under his command. His greatest victory was at the Battle of Chancellorsville in May of 1863. Facing vastly superior numbers, Lee andhis most trusted officer, General Stonewall Jackson, once again outmaneuvered and outfought the Union forces. However, Jackson was killed in the battle and without his support, Lee was defeated at theBattle of Gettysburg. The dwindling Confederate forces battled the nearly endless resources of the Union Army for two more years. Lee was forced to surrender his beleaguered troops at Appomattox in 1865.
Following the war, Lee assumed the presidency of Washington College, now Washington and Lee University, where he served until his death in 1870.
Robert E. Lee was a man of great personal character and he devoted the rest of his life to setting an example of conduct for thousands of ex-Confederates. Utilizing his legendary status, he urged Southerners to hold no animosity toward the North and raise their children as Americans. His efforts, both during and after the war, earned him the respect and admiration of the entire nation.
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