{⋆★⋆} GEN Lee, Robert E.

Robert Edward Lee
Lee.jpg
:CSA1stNat: Robert Edward Lee
was a soldier from Virginia who first served in the U.S. Army, until his home state seceded from the Union during the outbreak of the Civil War. Lee resigned from the U.S. Army in 1861 and joined the Confederate Army. He is best known for his command of the Army of Northern Virginia starting in 1862. His early record shows that he was an able tactician and battlefield commander, winning most of his battles, frequently besting Armies with Superior numbers.

At Gettysburg, by far the largest battle of the war, Lee suffered his greatest defeat. It has been suggested that Lee's principle change to offensive tactics resulted in higher casualties than his army could afford. Although the war continued on for nearly two more years, Lee was compelled to surrender to Union forces under the command of U.S. General Grant at Appomattox in April of 1865, and all Confederate forces capitulated following Lee's actions.

Born: January 19, 1807

Birthplace: Stratford Hall, Westmoreland County, Virginia

Father: Major General Henry “Light Horse Harry” Lee 1756 – 1818
(Buried: Lee Chapel Museum, Lexington, Virginia)​

Mother: Anne Hill Carter 1773 – 1829
(Buried: Lee Chapel Museum, Lexington, Virginia)​

Wife: Mary Anna Randolph Custis 1808 – 1873
(Buried: Lee Chapel Museum, Lexington, Virginia)​
Married: June 30, 1831 in Arlington, Virginia

Children:

(Buried: Lee Chapel Museum, Lexington, Virginia)​
Mary Custis Lee 1835 – 1918​
(Buried: Lee Chapel Museum, Lexington, Virginia)​
(Buried: Lee Chapel Museum, Lexington, Virginia)​
(Buried: Lee Chapel Museum, Lexington, Virginia)​
Eleanor Agnes Lee 1841 – 1873​
(Buried: Lee Chapel Museum, Lexington, Virginia)​
(Buried: Lee Chapel Museum, Lexington, Virginia)​
Mildred Childe Lee 1845 – 1905​
(Buried: Lee Chapel Museum, Lexington, Virginia)​

Education:

1829: Graduated from West Point Military Academy – (2nd in class)​

Occupation before War:

1829: Brevet 2nd Lt. United States Army Engineers​
1829 – 1836: 2nd Lt. United States Army Engineers
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1829 – 1834: Assistant Engineer for the Defense of Hampton Roads​
1834 – 1837: Assistant to Chief Engineer in Washington, D.C.​
1836 – 1838: 1st Lt. United States Army Engineers​
1835: Assistant Astronomer for establishing Ohio - Missouri Boundary​
1837 – 1841: Superintendent Engineer, St. Louis Harbor Improvement​
1838 – 1855: Captain, United States Army, Engineers​
1840 – 1841: Engineer for improvement of Lower Mississippi​
1841 – 1844: Engineer for Repairs on Narrows at New York Harbor​
1844: Assistant to Chief Engineer in Washington, D.C.​
1844 – 1846: Engineer for Repairs on Narrows at New York Harbor​
1845 – 1848: Member Board of Engineers Atlantic Coast Defenses​
1847: Brevetted Major for his role at Battle of Cerro Gordo, Mexico​
1847: Brevetted Lt. Colonel for his role at Contreras & Churubusco​
1847: Brevetted Colonel for his role at Battle of Chapultepec​
1848 – 1852: Engineer for Construction of Fort Carroll in Maryland​
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1848 – 1852: Member Board of Engineers Atlantic Coast Defenses​
1852 – 1855: Superintendent of West Point Military Academy​
1855 – 1861: Lt. Colonel United States Army 2nd Cavalry​
1856: Frontier Duty at Camp Cooper Texas​
1856: Served in expedition against Comanche Indians​
1856 – 1857: Frontier Duty at Camp Cooper, Texas​
1857: Commanded regiment in San Antonio, Texas​
1857 – 1859: Leave of Absence from Army father in law’s death​
1859: Commander of forces at Harper’s Ferry to end John Brown’s raid​
1860: Commander of United States Army Department of Texas​
1861: Colonel of United States Army 1st Cavalry Regiment​
1861: Refused Command of Union Army Volunteers​
1861: Resigned from United States Army on April 25th​

Civil War Career:

1861: Commander of Virginia State Forces​
1861: Commander of Confederate Forces in Western Virginia​
1861: Defeated at the Battle of Cheat Mountain​
1861: Organizer of Coastal Defenses at Carolina and Georgia Coast​
1861 – 1865: General of Confederate States Army​
1861 – 1862: Military Advisor to President Jefferson Davis​
1862 – 1865: Commander of Army of Northern Virginia​
1862: Successful in his Command for Seven Days Campaign​
1862: Successful in his Command at Second Battle of Bull Run​
1862: Commander of single most bloody day Battle of Antietam, Maryland​
1862: Commander of Confederate Army’s victory at Fredericksburg​
1863: Commander of Confederate Army’s Victory at Chancellorsville​
1863 – 1870: Suffered from bad health due to heart problem’s​
1863: Commander of Unsuccessful Attack at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania​
1863: Submitted letter of resignation President refused to accept​
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1864:
Confederate Commander Battle of the Wilderness​
1864: Confederate Commander Battle of Spotsylvania Court House​
1864: Commander of Confederate Army’s Victory at Cold Harbor​
1864 – 1865: Confederate Commander during Siege of Petersburg, Virginia​
1865: General in Chief of Armies of Confederate States​
1865: Abandoned Richmond and retreated West​
1865: made attempt to escape to the Southwest and Join Johnston​
1865: Surrendered to Grant on April 9th at Appomattox, Virginia​

Occupation after War:

1865: Went to Richmond Virginia to join his family​
1865: Told Southerners to stop fighting and return home​
1865: Lived at Derwent in Powhatan County, Virginia​
1865: Considered buying land and becoming a farmer​
1865: October 2, Lee Signed & Submitted his Amnesty Oath to the U.S. State Department as required by President Johnson​
1865: October 2, Lee Inaugurated as president of Washington College in Lexington, Virginia​
1865 – 1870: Term as President of Washington College​
Started an honor System at Washington College Similar to West Point’s​
Supporter of Andrew Johnson’s Plan for Reconstruction​
1870: Traveled South on Vacation​
1870: September 28th Suffered a Stroke in Lexington, Virginia​

Died: October 12, 1870

Time of Death: 9:00 AM

Cause of Death: Pneumonia

Age at time of Death: 63 years old

Burial Place: Lee Chapel Museum, Lexington, Virginia

In 1970: An archivist at the National Archives discovered Lee's Amnesty Oath among State Department records. Rumor has it that Secretary of State William H. Seward had used Lee's application as a souvenir and gifted it to a friend, the State Department had effectively pigeonholed Lee's oath for over 100 years.

In 1975: Lee's full rights of citizenship were posthumously restored by a joint congressional resolution, effective June 13, 1865, and were recognized by President Gerald Ford during an August 5th signing ceremony. Ford remarked that, "General Lee's character has been an example to succeeding generations, making the restoration of his citizenship an event in which every American can take pride." .


Early life

He was born Robert Edward Lee in Stratford Hall, the ancestral home of the Lees in Westmoreland County, Virginia, and the fourth child of Colonel Henry Lee III ("Light Horse" Harry Lee) and Ann Hill Carter. His family had produced many prominent figures in American history (among them was Richard Lee, signer of the Declaration of Independence), and Lee's father had been George Washington's favorite cavalry leader during the American Revolution as well as governor of Virginia; indeed, it was Henry Lee who delivered the famous eulogy at Washington's funeral. Years later Robert would continue relations with the Washington family by marrying a distant cousin, Mary Anne Randolph Custis, the great granddaughter of Martha Washington and heiress to several plantations.

Henry Lee unfortunately was a spendthrift, squandering his wealth in land speculating schemes, eventually losing the Stratford home.

In 1812, he discovered a friend's newspaper in Baltimore had made polical enemies, and when Henry had defended him from rioters he ended up horribly beaten, and took to the Bahamas in hopes the tropical climate might restore his health. He would die on Cumberland Island, Georgia, while on his way home six years later, his attempts at restoring his health fruitless (Smith, pp. 8-9). By this time Robert was 11, and Henry had left Ann seven children to take care of with little more than an aristocratic name and a small endowment from her father. Robert was already close to his mother, and from her he learned strength of character, high moral principles, and the ability to pinch what little money they had. He had to: brothers Henry IV and Carter were attending college and Smith put to sea as a midshipman; sister Anne was continually sick, and mother was increasingly becoming an invalid. This had the effect of causing Robert to grow up fast, while his poverty led him to excel at whatever task came his way (Freeman, pg. 11).

Early military years

Sir,
I hereby accept the appointment to the station of a Cadet in the service of the United States, with which I have been honoured by the President. The above is the declaration of consent which my letter of appointment instructs me should accompany my acceptance.
I remain with the highest respect, Sir.
Your most obliged & most obedient Servant
R. E. LEE

Although an outstanding student at Alexandria Academy, where he excelled in mathematics, Robert was unable to afford a university education, so the only option available to him was the slim possibility of an appointment to the United States Military Academy. Through the services of the family's counselor, William H. Fitzhugh of Ravensworth, Robert obtained a letter of recommendation and personally delivered it to Secretary of War John C. Calhoun, who had him appointed to the Academy on March 11, 1824 to begin studies the following year for the graduating class of 1829 (Freeman, pp. 12-13). His conduct at West Point during his four years there was exemplary. At the top or near it in every field of study, he would attain the unheard-of rank of cadet staff sergeant at the end of his first year, and be selected adjutant, the most sought-after rank, during his final year. When he graduated in 1829, he was ranked second (behind Charles Mason), and had no demerits (Freeman, pp. 15-19).

Despite his high bearing, he made friends easily and no one of record took a dislike to him. By this time he had become a handsome young man with manners to match; he was referred to as "the marble model" at the academy. One cadet spoke years later of Lee: "His personal appearance surpassed in manly beauty that of any cadet in the corps. Though firm in his position and perfectly erect, he had none of the stiffness so often assumed by men who affect to be very strict in their ideas of what is military" (Freeman, pg. 17).

He selected the Engineering Corps after graduation, the branch of the Army considered most elite, but his first duty station was far from it. Cockspur Island, Georgia, at the mouth of the Savannah River, where he labored for days in mosquito-infested mud building the drainage dikes and canal that became part of Fort Pulaski (TL 8, pg. 12).

Within his first two years he was back in Alexandria for something far more pleasant: his marriage to Mary Custis in June, 1831. The marriage also gave him title to the Custis Estate at Arlington, a majestic building with a columned entrance reminiscent of classical Greek and Roman architecture.

The marriage was blissful for the first four years, and Mary gave birth to two children: George Washington Custis (nicknamed "Boo") in 1832, and Mary Custis in 1835. It was soon after that the elder Mary developed arthritis, leaving Robert stunned. "I never saw a man so changed and saddened" lamented a relative later. In spite of her affliction, Mary produced five more children: William Henry Fitzhugh ("Roonie") in 1837; Anne ("Annie") in 1839; Agnes in 1841; Robert Edward Jr. ("Rob") in 1843; and Mildred in 1846 (TL 8, pg. 14).

Mexico

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Texas, formerly a republic when it successfully rebelled against the rule of Mexican dictator Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna in 1836, sought to become part of the United States, which was bitterly opposed by Mexico. Congress approved a declaration of war against Mexico on May 13, 1946, and by the following January Captain Lee received orders to join Major General Winfield Scott at Brazos, where he was included with the general staff on planning operations for an invasion of the city of Veracruz. Landings began on March 9, and by March 17 Lee had placed a large number of cannon some 700 yards from the Mexican defenses, his engineering skills successful as the enemy was unaware of his placements. During the next few days as a naval bombardment was taking place, Lee ran his lines closer; he would open fire himself on March 24. Two days later a truce was granted, and Veracruz capitulated (Freeman, pp. 58-59).

Lee then set to work at finding a path to Mexico City over ground which was difficult, but not impossible, for Scott's army to pass over. A series of engagements took place on the route, among them an attack on Cerro Gordo. Scott's plan for action called for an infantry assault simultaneous with an artillery bombardment; Lee was to lead a brigade around the northern flank to cut off the enemy's retreat. Before nightfall took place on April 18, 1847, some 3,000 Mexican soldiers had surrendered, and the remainder were in flight to the rear; the leader of the Mexican force, Santa Anna, had barely managed to escape (Freeman, pp. 61-62). While in Mexico he would form acquaintances with many men who would fight for or against him during the Civil War; among them Jeb Stuart, Braxton Bragg, James Longstreet, Thomas J. Jackson, and a young officer whom he upbraided for wearing "slovenly dress": Ulysses S. Grant.

"I am impelled to make special mention of the services of Captain R.E. Lee," Scott wrote in one of his reports. "This officer, greatly distingushed at the siege of Vera Cruz, was again indefatigable during these operations (Cerro Gordo), in reconnaissance as daring as laborious, and of the utmost value." The recognition also met that Robert was placed ahead of fellow soldiers who served with him in Mexico, among them P.G.T Beauregard, Joseph E. Johnston, and Thomas J. Jackson (Nagel, pg. 249). Scott would rely heavily on Lee in the next few months, as Mexico City was finally taken in September, again with Lee making observations of enemy terrain and using it to his advantage. He would be breveted to major before the war drew to a close, and breveted again to lieutenant colonel at its close; Scott would call him "the very best soldier that I ever saw in the field" (Freeman, pg. 76).

Between the wars

Fort Carroll in Baltimore Harbor was his next duty station for three years, followed by three years back at West Point in 1852, this time as superintendent. During his time there he improved the course curriculum and spent much time with the cadets; he also had the pleasure of watching his son George march with the cadets, beaming with pride as he graduated first in his class in 1854.

In 1855 Lee was sent to Texas, serving Colonel Albert Sidney Johnston of the 2nd Cavalry. There he helped protect settlers from Indian attacks. Lee was not happy to be away from his family for extended periods of time, as Mary's invalidity was increasing. On the death of his mother-in-law in 1859 he was forced to leave Texas and serve as executor of the estate.

In October of 1859, a crisis erupted at the Federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry in northern Virginia when a fanatical abolisionist named John Brown and a small force of 21 men took control of the area and held some sixty hostages; there was the threat that Brown was hoping for a general slave revolt. As the nearest ranking officer Lee was ordered to the area where he commanded U.S. Marines in the storming of the arsenal, wounding Brown and capturing or killing the rest.

"I can anticipate no greater calamity for the country than a dissolution of the Union," Lee said in a letter to his son. "I will sacrifice everything but honor for its preservation." Such thoughts went through his mind during the sixteen months following John Brown's raid; by April, 1861 seven states had seceded over the longs years of the slavery and states rights questions. On April 18, 1861, four days after the fall of Fort Sumter, Lieutenant General Winfield Scott offered Lee command of all Union forces assembling for the insurrection. "I could take no part in an invasion of the southern states," was his reply, and Lee resigned his commission, ending more than thirty years of service (Smith, pp. 84-87). A fortnight later, Virginia herself seceded and Lee, feeling a duty to his "native state", offered his services.

The Civil War

Lee was appointed commander in chief of all Confederate forces in Virginia, and among his tasks were to concentrate troops and logistics at places to repel any expected invasion. During this time, Lee was driven out of western Virginia by a Union force under Major General George B. McClellan, thus holding the area for the Union (it would eventually become the state of West Virginia in 1863). He was also among the few on both sides to realize that, instead of a short, decisive and relatively bloodless conflict, this would be a long, bloody affair. Lee served several rather unrewarding positions between July 1861 and June 1862, the last of which was military adviser to President Jefferson Davis; despite this he was able to work out a coherent strategy for the Confederate defense.

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During McClellan’s Peninsular Campaign in May 1862, troops under Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston were being driven towards Richmond by the heavily equipped and organized Army of the Potomac. To relieve the pressure on Johnston, Lee collaborated with Thomas J. (“Stonewall”) Jackson to turn several minor garrisons into a superb force which then struck at targets in the Shenandoah Valley; the surprised Federals were forced into retreating, leaving Washington under threat. This in turn caused Lincoln to withhold from McClellan a large corps by which McClellan had planned to attack Richmond; on May 31, McClellan was attacked by Johnston’s forces at Fair Oaks. Although inconclusive, Johnston was wounded and had to withdraw from active duty. Davis then gave command to Lee.

Field command


"It is well war is so frightful, otherwise we should become too fond of it" Lee, at the Battle of Fredericksburg.

Within three weeks Johnston’s former command had been transformed into a new Army of Northern Virginia. Lee transferred his headquarters to the field so as to be near his men, but initially he set them to work on the defenses, earning the derisive sobriquets "Granny Lee" and "King of Spades" from the troops who bristled at the thought of digging ditches. When Jackson arrived with his men from the valley, Lee struck at McClellan on the north bank of the Chickhominy River, defeating the right wing and descending on McClellan’s supply line from his York River base. This was the start of the Seven Days battles, which in a series of encounters McClellan was forced to withdraw his army to the wharves of Berkley Plantation, getting aid from vessels of the U.S. Navy. The Seven Days was the first Confederate victory since First Bull Run, and Lee became a major hero.

He then inflicted several defeats on the Union - some very severe – especially on August 29-30, 1862 at Manassas, Virginia in the Second Battle of Bull Run. Lee then crossed into Maryland, in part to gather Southern sympathizers in that state, and also to carry the fight to enemy territory, with which he planned on drawing the enemy out of Virginia.

Unfortunately his battle plans fell into Union hands, and the Army of the Potomac, again under McClellan, met him at Sharpsburg, Maryland on September 17 in the Battle of Antietam, which became, with well over 19,000 casualties became the single bloodiest day in American history. Lee lost this battle, and was able to retreat back into Virginia, reorganize his army; by December he seized back the initiative with a decisive victory over the Union army (under Ambrose Burnside) at Fredericksburg. The following May, 1863, the Battle of Chancellorsville took place, and although outnumbered by at least two to one, he divided his forces twice and circled the Federals under "Fighting Joe" Joseph Hooker in one of the most audacious maneuvers in military history. He also suffered the irreparable loss of Stonewall Jackson, mortally wounded while reconnoitering the left flank (Smith, pp. 158-162).

Again, Lee tried to draw the enemy out of Virginia; this time he crossed the Potomac and headed north into Pennsylvania, where he hoped to re-supply his men. He was met and stopped during the first week of July, in a massive, three-day engagement at Gettysburg.

Here, the Confederacy would find its “high tide”, and Lee, fighting without Stonewall Jackson, would suffer the failure of his top three generals who did not use the discretionary orders to the effectiveness that Jackson had (one of the failures was under Major General James Longstreet's subordinate, Brigadier General George Pickett, whose division was decimated on the final day after briefly planting their flag at what came to be known as the "high water mark"). But characteristically, as Lee gave full credit to Jackson for the victory at Chancellorsville, he took full responsibility for the defeat at Gettysburg (Smith, pp. 164-167).

Final year of the war

"I'm afraid they're going to get me a general I don't understand." Lee, on the many changes of generals at the helm of the Army of the Potomac.

In May 1864, Lee faced a proven fighter in the officer Lee rebuked years before in Grant, just appointed as commanding general of all Union forces, and who went after Lee with enormous superiority in men, cavalry, and logistics. For his part, Grant could neither defeat nor outmaneuver Lee during the next several months; Grant sustained losses of 50,000 men between May and June in the battles of the Wilderness, Spotsylvania Court House (nearby at Yellow Tavern, Lee would suffer the loss of Jeb Stuart, his favorite cavalry commander and most effective scout), the North Anna, and Cold Harbor (Lee, pp 124-125).

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But Grant kept after him, the morale in his men high, and his losses replaced by new recruits, while Lee’s army was draining in both men and supplies. Lee had lost the initiative, and when Grant made a move toward the vital rail connection at Petersburg, Lee had no other choice but to place his starving men in defensive positions and endure a long siege; due to Lee’s mastery of engineering his field fortifications were able to hold the Federals back from June 1864 to April 1865. By then, Lee knew it would be a matter of time before the lines would break.

Lee was forced to abandon Petersburg on April 2, making a long retreat toward the west, where he hoped to meet with a supply train to feed his men. Several days later, his army finally stopped at Appomattox Court House, he had no choice but to surrender[1][2], which took place on April 9; the pain of the surrender considerably lessened by the generous terms offered by Grant, who placed everyone on a parole not to be molested by U.S. authority as long as they obeyed the laws in force, allowed the surrendered officers to retain their swords and side arms, and allowed the men to take with them their horses and mules to get a badly-needed spring crop planted if the country was to rebound from the years of war (Lee, pg. 153). Lee conceded this would have the best possible effect on the men, and would do much to reconciliate the country. With the formalities of surrender over, there was one order he had left to make:

HDQRS. ARMY OF NORTHERN VIRGINIA, April 10, 1865.
After four years of arduous service, marked by unsurpassed courage and fortitude, the Army of Northern Virginia has been compelled to yield to overwhelming numbers and resources. I need not tell the brave survivors of so many hard-fought battles, who have remained steadfast to the last, that I have consented to the result from no distrust of them. But, feeling that valor and devotion could accomplish nothing that could compensate for the loss that must have attended the continuance of the contest, I determined to avoid the useless sacrifice of those whose past services have endeared them to their countrymen.By the terms of the agreement officers and men can return to their homes and remain until exchanged. You will take with you the satisfaction that proceeds from the consciousness of duty faithfully performed; and I earnestly pray that a merciful God will extend to you his blessing and protection.With an increasing admiration of your constancy and devotion to your country, and a grateful remembrance of your kind and generous considerations for myself, I bid you all an affectionate farewell.
R. E. LEE, General [3]​

Later years

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At the age of 58, Lee was out of work. He was living in a borrowed home in Richmond, taking care of his invalid wife and three daughters. Numerous offers for income did come his way in the ensuing months, each requesting use of his name, with largest sum valued at $50,000. Lee turned each of them down. He also discovered that a grand jury had assembled in Norfolk with the intention of putting him on trial for treason; only the intervention of Grant, who demanded that President Andrew Johnson respect the conditions of Confederate paroles in light of the surrender, was the trial canceled and charges quietly dropped (Freeman, pp. 516-518). Although he applied for amnesty and a full restoration of citizenship, this was not granted; his amnesty document had disappeared (possibly deliberately) within the National Archives, and would not be seen again for a century.

Trusting in God to provide some means of sustenance, he had a visitor to his door in the form of Judge John W. Brockenbrough, who, to Lee's great surprise, had told him that he was unanimously elected to be president of Washington College in Lexington, Virginia.

"I consider the proper education of (the South's) youth one of the most important objects now to be obtained, and one from which the greatest benefits may be expected. Nothing will compensate us for the depression of the standard of our moral and intellectual culture, and each state should take the most energetic measures to revive its schools and colleges, and, if possible, to increase the facilities of instruction, and to elevate the standard of living." (Freeman, pg. 527)

Even though the college itself was on hard times (it had less than a semester of financial life left when Lee took over), Lee set at once to revitalizing it. With donors from across the country, he was able to hire staff and faculty, put up additional buildings, and add more books to the library. More important was the curriculum he installed: law, chemistry, and engineering had replaced studies in the classics. As to the rules, he insisted on one, namely "every young man must conduct himself as a gentleman." Everything else was needless, he said (TL 27, pp. 57-59).

Although they were not friends, Lee never forgot Grant's magnanimity at Appomattox, and would not tolerate an unkind word to be said about him. Once, when a college faculty member did just that when Grant was running for president, the retort from an angry Lee was unforgettable: "Sir, if you dare presume to speak anything disrespectful of General Grant in my presence again, either you or I will sever your connections with this university."

But as the years went by his own health deteriorated. His heart condition hindered his work (he suffered several mild heart attacks on the battlefields), and his once-frequent rides on Traveller became less so. On September 28, 1870, Lee had a stroke. He never recovered, and died October 11, his last words the familiar command to begin the movement of his army, "Strike the tent." (TL 27, pg. 60)

Two weeks later, in memory of Lee and his remarkable achievement of restoring new life to Washington College, the trustees changed the name to Washington and Lee University.

Assessment

As a man Lee was many things. He had a bad temper; when enraged officers in his tent would make a hasty retreat. No one regretted it more than himself, and he took great pains to control it. He was a firm believer in God, and he would be on his knees daily. He had called Union soldiers "the enemy", but he continually prayed for them, as well as for his own. He was aristocratic, but he knew humility, and he would sit with the lowliest of privates during church services. He was deeply disappointed that his amnesty did not go through, but he chose to be a good citizen anyway, leading the South by example.

References

  1. http://www.civilwarhome.com/grantlee.htm
  2. http://www.civilwarhome.com/surrender.htm
  3. http://www.civilwarhome.com/leeorder.htm

  • Freeman, Douglas Southall. Lee, Charles Scribner's Sons, New York, (1935); abridged one-volume edition, edited by Richard Harwell (1961)
  • Lee, Robert Edward, Jr. Recollections and Letters of General Robert E. Lee, Konecky & Konecky, New York (1992)
  • Nagel, Paul C. The Lees of Virginia, Oxford University Press, New York & London (1990)
  • Nolan, Alan T. Lee Considered, University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, NC (1991)
  • Smith, Eugene O. Lee and Grant: a Dual Biography, McGraw-Hill, New York (1991)
  • Time-Life Books The Civil War, vol. 8 (Lee Takes Command), Time Inc, New York (1984)
  • Time-Life Books The Civil War, vol. 27 (The Nation Reunited), Time Inc, New York (1987)
 
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CivilWarTalk

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Parole of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee
and six of his staff officers, April 9, 1865.
(National Archives, Records of the Adjutant General s Office, 1780 s—1917, RG 94)

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Lee signed his Amnesty Oath on October 2, 1865,
but was not restored to full citizenship in his lifetime.
(General Records of the Department of State, RG 59)

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James N.

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All photos from Lee Chapel, Washington & Lee University, Lexington, Virginia.

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Above, Edward Valentine's Recumbent Statue of Lee; below, part of the Lee Family crypt.

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Lee's office as President of the then-college in the basement of the chapel.
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I find this fact very interesting and never knew this. Who was he assistant to? Was this separate from his army duties?

Heres two of the feats he is known for here, saving river navigation at St Louis then opening the Upper Mississippi to navigation by opening a channel in the Des Moines rapids at Keokuk


http://markgoodmansen.com/2016/01/lt-robert-e-lee-the-rapids-and-the-steamboat/

 

luinrina

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I find this fact very interesting and never knew this. Who was he assistant to? Was this separate from his army duties?
From Freeman's bio (Vol. I, p. 133/134):

The round of office work was pleasantly broken in the spring of 1835. The boundary between Ohio and the territory of Michigan was then in dispute. An armed clash between the two neighbors seemed not unlikely. Talcott had previously been employed in making a survey of the line in controversy, and in May, 1835, he was directed to make new observations to answer the rival contentions. "His old-time and able assistant, Lt. R. E. Lee of the Corps of Engineers" — in that gentleman's own bantering announcement to Mrs. Talcott — "will join him forthwith for same duty." The mission was not expected to take more than one month, but it occupied the entire summer. It involved a number of interesting calculations and it carried Lee to the Great Lakes, which he had never seen before. The tour of duty added little, however, to his equipment for the duties that lay ahead.​

Talcott being Andrew Talcott, West Point Class of 1818 (Cullum Register). He was Lee's superior at Ft. Monroe, and the Lees and Talcotts were very good friends. One of Talcott's sons, Thomas Mann Randolph Talcott, was on Lee's staff from 1862 to 1863.
 

James N.

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Curiosity has driven me to ask you who has climbed upon the roof and made their way to the chimney?
Thanks, Lubliner.
I hadn't noticed that before! I didn't get to go inside and was basically just walking around old downtown Alexandria looking for and snapping pictures of various historic sites. Probably he's working on the roof or something. I turned quickly from there to look across the street at another Lee property before crossing to the Episcopal Church where the Lees (and Washingtons too if I remember correctly) attended church; unfortunately, it too wasn't open to the public that weekday I was there.

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Virginia Dave

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Robert Edward Lee
View attachment 328612Robert Edward Lee was a soldier from Virginia who first served in the U.S. Army, until his home state seceded from the Union during the outbreak of the Civil War. Lee resigned from the U.S. Army in 1861 and joined the Confederate Army. He is best known for his command of the Army of Northern Virginia starting in 1862. His early record shows that he was an able tactician and battlefield commander, winning most of his battles, frequently besting Armies with Superior numbers.

At Gettysburg, by far the largest battle of the war, Lee suffered his greatest defeat. It has been suggested that Lee's principle change to offensive tactics resulted in higher casualties than his army could afford. Although the war continued on for nearly two more years, Lee was compelled to surrender to Union forces under the command of U.S. General Grant at Appomattox in April of 1865, and all Confederate forces capitulated following Lee's actions.

Born: January 19, 1807

Birthplace: Stratford Hall, Westmoreland County, Virginia

Father: Major General Henry “Light Horse Harry” Lee 1756 – 1818
(Buried: Lee Chapel Museum, Lexington, Virginia)​

Mother: Anne Hill Carter 1773 – 1829
(Buried: Lee Chapel Museum, Lexington, Virginia)​

Wife: Mary Anna Randolph Custis 1808 – 1873
(Buried: Lee Chapel Museum, Lexington, Virginia)​
Married: June 30, 1831 in Arlington, Virginia

Children:

(Buried: Lee Chapel Museum, Lexington, Virginia)​
Mary Custis Lee 1835 – 1918​
(Buried: Lee Chapel Museum, Lexington, Virginia)​
(Buried: Lee Chapel Museum, Lexington, Virginia)​
(Buried: Lee Chapel Museum, Lexington, Virginia)​
Eleanor Agnes Lee 1841 – 1873​
(Buried: Lee Chapel Museum, Lexington, Virginia)​
(Buried: Lee Chapel Museum, Lexington, Virginia)​
Mildred Childe Lee 1845 – 1905​
(Buried: Lee Chapel Museum, Lexington, Virginia)​

Education:

1829: Graduated from West Point Military Academy – (2nd in class)​

Occupation before War:

1829: Brevet 2nd Lt. United States Army Engineers​
1829 – 1836: 2nd Lt. United States Army Engineers​
1829 – 1834: Assistant Engineer for the Defense of Hampton Roads​
View attachment 3286101834 – 1837: Assistant to Chief Engineer in Washington, D.C.​
1836 – 1838: 1st Lt. United States Army Engineers​
1835: Assistant Astronomer for establishing Ohio Missouri Boundary​
1837 – 1841: Superintendent Engineer St. Louis Harbor Improvement​
1838 – 1855: Captain United States Army Engineers​
1840 – 1841: Engineer for improvement of Lower Mississippi​
1841 – 1844: Engineer for Repairs on Narrows at New York Harbor​
1844: Assistant to Chief Engineer in Washington, D.C.​
1844 – 1846: Engineer for Repairs on Narrows at New York Harbor​
1845 – 1848: Member Board of Engineers Atlantic Coast Defenses​
1847: Brevetted Major for his role at Battle of Cerro Gordo, Mexico​
1847: Brevetted Lt. Colonel for his role at Contreras & Churubusco​
1847: Brevetted Colonel for his role at Battle of Chapultepec​
1848 – 1852: Engineer for Construction of Fort Carroll in Maryland​
View attachment 3286141848 – 1852: Member Board of Engineers Atlantic Coast Defenses​
1852 – 1855: Superintendent of West Point Military Academy​
1855 – 1861: Lt. Colonel United States Army 2nd Cavalry​
1856: Frontier Duty at Camp Cooper Texas​
1856: Served in expedition against Comanche Indians​
1856 – 1857: Frontier Duty at Camp Cooper, Texas​
1857: Commanded regiment in San Antonio, Texas​
1857 – 1859: Leave of Absence from Army father in law’s death​
1859: Commander of forces at Harper’s Ferry to end John Brown’s raid​
1860: Commander of United States Army Department of Texas​
1861: Colonel of United States Army 1st Cavalry Regiment​
1861: Refused Command of Union Army Volunteers​
1861: Resigned from United States Army on April 25th​

Civil War Career:

1861: Commander of Virginia State Forces​
1861: Commander of Confederate Forces in Western Virginia​
1861: Defeated at the Battle of Cheat Mountain​
1861: Organizer of Coastal Defenses at Carolina and Georgia Coast​
1861 – 1865: General of Confederate States Army​
1861 – 1862: Military Advisor to President Jefferson Davis​
1862 – 1865: Commander of Army of Northern Virginia​
1862: Successful in his Command for Seven Days Campaign​
1862: Successful in his Command at Second Battle of Bull Run​
1862: Commander of single most bloody day Battle of Antietam, Md.​
1862: Commander of Confederate Army’s victory at Fredericksburg​
1863: Commander of Confederate Army’s Victory at Chancellorsville​
1863 – 1870: Suffered from bad health due to heart problem’s​
1863: Commander of Unsuccessful Attack at Gettysburg, PA​
1863: Submitted letter of resignation President refused to accept​
View attachment 3286151864: Confederate Commander Battle of the Wilderness​
1864: Confederate Commander Battle of Spotsylvania Court House​
1864: Commander of Confederate Army’s Victory at Cold Harbor​
1864 – 1865: Confederate Commander during Siege of Petersburg, VA​
1865: General in Chief of Armies of Confederate States​
1865: Abandoned Richmond and retreated West​
1865: made attempt to escape to the Southwest and Join Johnston​
1865: Surrendered to Grant on April 9th at Appomattox, Virginia​

Occupation after War:

1865: Went to Richmond Virginia to join his family​
1865: Told Southerners to stop fighting and return home​
1865: Lived at Derwent in Powhatan County, Virginia​
1865: Considered buying land and becoming a farmer​
1865 – 1870: President of Washington College​
Started an honor System at Washington College Similar to West Point’s​
Supporter of Andrew Johnson’s Plan for Reconstruction​
1870: Traveled South on Vacation​
1870: September 28th Suffered a Stroke in Lexington, Virginia​

Died: October 12, 1870

Time of Death: 9:00 AM

Cause of Death: Pneumonia

Age at time of Death: 63 years old

Burial Place: Lee Chapel Museum, Lexington, Virginia


Early life

He was born Robert Edward Lee in Stratford Hall, the ancestral home of the Lees in Westmoreland County, Virginia, and the fourth child of Colonel Henry Lee III ("Light Horse" Harry Lee) and Ann Hill Carter. His family had produced many prominent figures in American history (among them was Richard Lee, signer of the Declaration of Independence), and Lee's father had been George Washington's favorite cavalry leader during the American Revolution as well as governor of Virginia; indeed, it was Henry Lee who delivered the famous eulogy at Washington's funeral. Years later Robert would continue relations with the Washington family by marrying a distant cousin, Mary Anne Randolph Custis, the great granddaughter of Martha Washington and heiress to several plantations.

Henry Lee unfortunately was a spendthrift, squandering his wealth in land speculating schemes, eventually losing the Stratford home.

In 1812, he discovered a friend's newspaper in Baltimore had made polical enemies, and when Henry had defended him from rioters he ended up horribly beaten, and took to the Bahamas in hopes the tropical climate might restore his health. He would die on Cumberland Island, Georgia, while on his way home six years later, his attempts at restoring his health fruitless (Smith, pp. 8-9). By this time Robert was 11, and Henry had left Ann seven children to take care of with little more than an aristocratic name and a small endowment from her father. Robert was already close to his mother, and from her he learned strength of character, high moral principles, and the ability to pinch what little money they had. He had to: brothers Henry IV and Carter were attending college and Smith put to sea as a midshipman; sister Anne was continually sick, and mother was increasingly becoming an invalid. This had the effect of causing Robert to grow up fast, while his poverty led him to excel at whatever task came his way (Freeman, pg. 11).

Early military years

Sir,
I hereby accept the appointment to the station of a Cadet in the service of the United States, with which I have been honoured by the President. The above is the declaration of consent which my letter of appointment instructs me should accompany my acceptance.
I remain with the highest respect, Sir.
Your most obliged & most obedient Servant
R. E. LEE

Although an outstanding student at Alexandria Academy, where he excelled in mathematics, Robert was unable to afford a university education, so the only option available to him was the slim possibility of an appointment to the United States Military Academy. Through the services of the family's counselor, William H. Fitzhugh of Ravensworth, Robert obtained a letter of recommendation and personally delivered it to Secretary of War John C. Calhoun, who had him appointed to the Academy on March 11, 1824 to begin studies the following year for the graduating class of 1829 (Freeman, pp. 12-13). His conduct at West Point during his four years there was exemplary. At the top or near it in every field of study, he would attain the unheard-of rank of cadet staff sergeant at the end of his first year, and be selected adjutant, the most sought-after rank, during his final year. When he graduated in 1829, he was ranked second (behind Charles Mason), and had no demerits (Freeman, pp. 15-19).

View attachment 328609Despite his high bearing, he made friends easily and no one of record took a dislike to him. By this time he had become a handsome young man with manners to match; he was referred to as "the marble model" at the academy. One cadet spoke years later of Lee: "His personal appearance surpassed in manly beauty that of any cadet in the corps. Though firm in his position and perfectly erect, he had none of the stiffness so often assumed by men who affect to be very strict in their ideas of what is military" (Freeman, pg. 17).

He selected the Engineering Corps after graduation, the branch of the Army considered most elite, but his first duty station was far from it. Cockspur Island, Georgia, at the mouth of the Savannah River, where he labored for days in mosquito-infested mud building the drainage dikes and canal that became part of Fort Pulaski (TL 8, pg. 12).

Within his first two years he was back in Alexandria for something far more pleasant: his marriage to Mary Custis in June, 1831. The marriage also gave him title to the Custis Estate at Arlington, a majestic building with a columned entrance reminiscent of classical Greek and Roman architecture.

The marriage was blissful for the first four years, and Mary gave birth to two children: George Washington Custis (nicknamed "Boo") in 1832, and Mary Custis in 1835. It was soon after that the elder Mary developed arthritis, leaving Robert stunned. "I never saw a man so changed and saddened" lamented a relative later. In spite of her affliction, Mary produced five more children: William Henry Fitzhugh ("Roonie") in 1837; Anne ("Annie") in 1839; Agnes in 1841; Robert Edward Jr. ("Rob") in 1843; and Mildred in 1846 (TL 8, pg. 14).

Mexico

Texas, formerly a republic when it successfully rebelled against the rule of Mexican dictator Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna in 1836, sought to become part of the United States, which was bitterly opposed by Mexico. Congress approved a declaration of war against Mexico on May 13, 1946, and by the following January Captain Lee received orders to join Major General Winfield Scott at Brazos, where he was included with the general staff on planning operations for an invasion of the city of Veracruz. Landings began on March 9, and by March 17 Lee had placed a large number of cannon some 700 yards from the Mexican defenses, his engineering skills successful as the enemy was unaware of his placements. During the next few days as a naval bombardment was taking place, Lee ran his lines closer; he would open fire himself on March 24. Two days later a truce was granted, and Veracruz capitulated (Freeman, pp. 58-59).

Lee then set to work at finding a path to Mexico City over ground which was difficult, but not impossible, for Scott's army to pass over. A series of engagements took place on the route, among them an attack on Cerro Gordo. Scott's plan for action called for an infantry assault simultaneous with an artillery bombardment; Lee was to lead a brigade around the northern flank to cut off the enemy's retreat. Before nightfall took place on April 18, 1847, some 3,000 Mexican soldiers had surrendered, and the remainder were in flight to the rear; the leader of the Mexican force, Santa Anna, had barely managed to escape (Freeman, pp. 61-62). While in Mexico he would form acquaintances with many men who would fight for or against him during the Civil War; among them Jeb Stuart, Braxton Bragg, James Longstreet, Thomas J. Jackson, and a young officer whom he upbraided for wearing "slovenly dress": Ulysses S. Grant.

"I am impelled to make special mention of the services of Captain R.E. Lee," Scott wrote in one of his reports. "This officer, greatly distingushed at the siege of Vera Cruz, was again indefatigable during these operations (Cerro Gordo), in reconnaissance as daring as laborious, and of the utmost value." The recognition also met that Robert was placed ahead of fellow soldiers who served with him in Mexico, among them P.G.T Beauregard, Joseph E. Johnston, and Thomas J. Jackson (Nagel, pg. 249). Scott would rely heavily on Lee in the next few months, as Mexico City was finally taken in September, again with Lee making observations of enemy terrain and using it to his advantage. He would be breveted to major before the war drew to a close, and breveted again to lieutenant colonel at its close; Scott would call him "the very best soldier that I ever saw in the field" (Freeman, pg. 76).

Between the wars

Fort Carroll in Baltimore Harbor was his next duty station for three years, followed by three years back at West Point in 1852, this time as superintendent. During his time there he improved the course curriculum and spent much time with the cadets; he also had the pleasure of watching his son George march with the cadets, beaming with pride as he graduated first in his class in 1854.

In 1855 Lee was sent to Texas, serving Colonel Albert Sidney Johnston of the 2nd Cavalry. There he helped protect settlers from Indian attacks. Lee was not happy to be away from his family for extended periods of time, as Mary's invalidity was increasing. On the death of his mother-in-law in 1859 he was forced to leave Texas and serve as executor of the estate.

In October of 1859, a crisis erupted at the Federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry in northern Virginia when a fanatical abolisionist named John Brown and a small force of 21 men took control of the area and held some sixty hostages; there was the threat that Brown was hoping for a general slave revolt. As the nearest ranking officer Lee was ordered to the area where he commanded U.S. Marines in the storming of the arsenal, wounding Brown and capturing or killing the rest.

"I can anticipate no greater calamity for the country than a dissolution of the Union," Lee said in a letter to his son. "I will sacrifice everything but honor for its preservation." Such thoughts went through his mind during the sixteen months following John Brown's raid; by April, 1861 seven states had seceded over the longs years of the slavery and states rights questions. On April 18, 1861, four days after the fall of Fort Sumter, Lieutenant General Winfield Scott offered Lee command of all Union forces assembling for the insurrection. "I could take no part in an invasion of the southern states," was his reply, and Lee resigned his commission, ending more than thirty years of service (Smith, pp. 84-87). A fortnight later, Virginia herself seceded and Lee, feeling a duty to his "native state", offered his services.

The Civil War

Lee was appointed commander in chief of all Confederate forces in Virginia, and among his tasks were to concentrate troops and logistics at places to repel any expected invasion. During this time, Lee was driven out of western Virginia by a Union force under Major General George B. McClellan, thus holding the area for the Union (it would eventually become the state of West Virginia in 1863). He was also among the few on both sides to realize that, instead of a short, decisive and relatively bloodless conflict, this would be a long, bloody affair. Lee served several rather unrewarding positions between July 1861 and June 1862, the last of which was military adviser to President Jefferson Davis; despite this he was able to work out a coherent strategy for the Confederate defense.

View attachment 328611During McClellan’s Peninsular Campaign in May 1862, troops under Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston were being driven towards Richmond by the heavily equipped and organized Army of the Potomac. To relieve the pressure on Johnston, Lee collaborated with Thomas J. (“Stonewall”) Jackson to turn several minor garrisons into a superb force which then struck at targets in the Shenandoah Valley; the surprised Federals were forced into retreating, leaving Washington under threat. This in turn caused Lincoln to withhold from McClellan a large corps by which McClellan had planned to attack Richmond; on May 31, McClellan was attacked by Johnston’s forces at Fair Oaks. Although inconclusive, Johnston was wounded and had to withdraw from active duty. Davis then gave command to Lee.

Field command


"It is well war is so frightful, otherwise we should become too fond of it" Lee, at the Battle of Fredericksburg.

Within three weeks Johnston’s former command had been transformed into a new Army of Northern Virginia. Lee transferred his headquarters to the field so as to be near his men, but initially he set them to work on the defenses, earning the derisive sobriquets "Granny Lee" and "King of Spades" from the troops who bristled at the thought of digging ditches. When Jackson arrived with his men from the valley, Lee struck at McClellan on the north bank of the Chickhominy River, defeating the right wing and descending on McClellan’s supply line from his York River base. This was the start of the Seven Days battles, which in a series of encounters McClellan was forced to withdraw his army to the wharves of Berkley Plantation, getting aid from vessels of the U.S. Navy. The Seven Days was the first Confederate victory since First Bull Run, and Lee became a major hero.

He then inflicted several defeats on the Union - some very severe – especially on August 29-30, 1862 at Manassas, Virginia in the Second Battle of Bull Run. Lee then crossed into Maryland, in part to gather Southern sympathizers in that state, and also to carry the fight to enemy territory, with which he planned on drawing the enemy out of Virginia.

Unfortunately his battle plans fell into Union hands, and the Army of the Potomac, again under McClellan, met him at Sharpsburg, Maryland on September 17 in the Battle of Antietam, which became, with well over 19,000 casualties became the single bloodiest day in American history. Lee lost this battle, and was able to retreat back into Virginia, reorganize his army; by December he seized back the initiative with a decisive victory over the Union army (under Ambrose Burnside) at Fredericksburg. The following May, 1863, the Battle of Chancellorsville took place, and although outnumbered by at least two to one, he divided his forces twice and circled the Federals under "Fighting Joe" Joseph Hooker in one of the most audacious maneuvers in military history. He also suffered the irreparable loss of Stonewall Jackson, mortally wounded while reconnoitering the left flank (Smith, pp. 158-162).

Again, Lee tried to draw the enemy out of Virginia; this time he crossed the Potomac and headed north into Pennsylvania, where he hoped to re-supply his men. He was met and stopped during the first week of July, in a massive, three-day engagement at Gettysburg.

Here, the Confederacy would find its “high tide”, and Lee, fighting without Stonewall Jackson, would suffer the failure of his top three generals who did not use the discretionary orders to the effectiveness that Jackson had (one of the failures was under Major General James Longstreet's subordinate, Brigadier General George Pickett, whose division was decimated on the final day after briefly planting their flag at what came to be known as the "high water mark"). But characteristically, as Lee gave full credit to Jackson for the victory at Chancellorsville, he took full responsibility for the defeat at Gettysburg (Smith, pp. 164-167).

Final year of the war

"I'm afraid they're going to get me a general I don't understand." Lee, on the many changes of generals at the helm of the Army of the Potomac.

In May 1864, Lee faced a proven fighter in the officer Lee rebuked years before in Grant, just appointed as commanding general of all Union forces, and who went after Lee with enormous superiority in men, cavalry, and logistics. For his part, Grant could neither defeat nor outmaneuver Lee during the next several months; Grant sustained losses of 50,000 men between May and June in the battles of the Wilderness, Spotsylvania Court House (nearby at Yellow Tavern, Lee would suffer the loss of Jeb Stuart, his favorite cavalry commander and most effective scout), the North Anna, and Cold Harbor (Lee, pp 124-125).

View attachment 328613But Grant kept after him, the morale in his men high, and his losses replaced by new recruits, while Lee’s army was draining in both men and supplies. Lee had lost the initiative, and when Grant made a move toward the vital rail connection at Petersburg, Lee had no other choice but to place his starving men in defensive positions and endure a long siege; due to Lee’s mastery of engineering his field fortifications were able to hold the Federals back from June 1864 to April 1865. By then, Lee knew it would be a matter of time before the lines would break.

Lee was forced to abandon Petersburg on April 2, making a long retreat toward the west, where he hoped to meet with a supply train to feed his men. Several days later, his army finally stopped at Appomattox Court House, he had no choice but to surrender[1][2], which took place on April 9; the pain of the surrender considerably lessened by the generous terms offered by Grant, who placed everyone on a parole not to be molested by U.S. authority as long as they obeyed the laws in force, allowed the surrendered officers to retain their swords and side arms, and allowed the men to take with them their horses and mules to get a badly-needed spring crop planted if the country was to rebound from the years of war (Lee, pg. 153). Lee conceded this would have the best possible effect on the men, and would do much to reconciliate the country. With the formalities of surrender over, there was one order he had left to make:

HDQRS. ARMY OF NORTHERN VIRGINIA, April 10, 1865.
After four years of arduous service, marked by unsurpassed courage and fortitude, the Army of Northern Virginia has been compelled to yield to overwhelming numbers and resources. I need not tell the brave survivors of so many hard-fought battles, who have remained steadfast to the last, that I have consented to the result from no distrust of them. But, feeling that valor and devotion could accomplish nothing that could compensate for the loss that must have attended the continuance of the contest, I determined to avoid the useless sacrifice of those whose past services have endeared them to their countrymen.By the terms of the agreement officers and men can return to their homes and remain until exchanged. You will take with you the satisfaction that proceeds from the consciousness of duty faithfully performed; and I earnestly pray that a merciful God will extend to you his blessing and protection.With an increasing admiration of your constancy and devotion to your country, and a grateful remembrance of your kind and generous considerations for myself, I bid you all an affectionate farewell.
R. E. LEE, General [3]​

Later years

View attachment 328616At the age of 58, Lee was out of work. He was living in a borrowed home in Richmond, taking care of his invalid wife and three daughters. Numerous offers for income did come his way in the ensuing months, each requesting use of his name, with largest sum valued at $50,000. Lee turned each of them down. He also discovered that a grand jury had assembled in Norfolk with the intention of putting him on trial for treason; only the intervention of Grant, who demanded that President Andrew Johnson respect the conditions of Confederate paroles in light of the surrender, was the trial canceled and charges quietly dropped (Freeman, pp. 516-518). Although he applied for amnesty and a full restoration of citizenship, this was not granted; his amnesty document had disappeared (possibly deliberately) within the National Archives, and would not be seen again for a century.

Trusting in God to provide some means of sustenance, he had a visitor to his door in the form of Judge John W. Brockenbrough, who, to Lee's great surprise, had told him that he was unanimously elected to be president of Washington College in Lexington, Virginia.

"I consider the proper education of (the South's) youth one of the most important objects now to be obtained, and one from which the greatest benefits may be expected. Nothing will compensate us for the depression of the standard of our moral and intellectual culture, and each state should take the most energetic measures to revive its schools and colleges, and, if possible, to increase the facilities of instruction, and to elevate the standard of living." (Freeman, pg. 527)

Even though the college itself was on hard times (it had less than a semester of financial life left when Lee took over), Lee set at once to revitalizing it. With donors from across the country, he was able to hire staff and faculty, put up additional buildings, and add more books to the library. More important was the curriculum he installed: law, chemistry, and engineering had replaced studies in the classics. As to the rules, he insisted on one, namely "every young man must conduct himself as a gentleman." Everything else was needless, he said (TL 27, pp. 57-59).

Although they were not friends, Lee never forgot Grant's magnanimity at Appomattox, and would not tolerate an unkind word to be said about him. Once, when a college faculty member did just that when Grant was running for president, the retort from an angry Lee was unforgettable: "Sir, if you dare presume to speak anything disrespectful of General Grant in my presence again, either you or I will sever your connections with this university."

But as the years went by his own health deteriorated. His heart condition hindered his work (he suffered several mild heart attacks on the battlefields), and his once-frequent rides on Traveller became less so. On September 28, 1870, Lee had a stroke. He never recovered, and died October 11, his last words the familiar command to begin the movement of his army, "Strike the tent." (TL 27, pg. 60)

Two weeks later, in memory of Lee and his remarkable achievement of restoring new life to Washington College, the trustees changed the name to Washington and Lee University.

Assessment

As a man Lee was many things. He had a bad temper; when enraged officers in his tent would make a hasty retreat. No one regretted it more than himself, and he took great pains to control it. He was a firm believer in God, and he would be on his knees daily. He had called Union soldiers "the enemy", but he continually prayed for them, as well as for his own. He was aristocratic, but he knew humility, and he would sit with the lowliest of privates during church services. He was deeply disappointed that his amnesty did not go through, but he chose to be a good citizen anyway, leading the South by example.

References

  1. http://www.civilwarhome.com/grantlee.htm
  2. http://www.civilwarhome.com/surrender.htm
  3. http://www.civilwarhome.com/leeorder.htm

  • Freeman, Douglas Southall. Lee, Charles Scribner's Sons, New York, (1935); abridged one-volume edition, edited by Richard Harwell (1961)
  • Lee, Robert Edward, Jr. Recollections and Letters of General Robert E. Lee, Konecky & Konecky, New York (1992)
  • Nagel, Paul C. The Lees of Virginia, Oxford University Press, New York & London (1990)
  • Nolan, Alan T. Lee Considered, University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, NC (1991)
  • Smith, Eugene O. Lee and Grant: a Dual Biography, McGraw-Hill, New York (1991)
  • Time-Life Books The Civil War, vol. 8 (Lee Takes Command), Time Inc, New York (1984)
  • Time-Life Books The Civil War, vol. 27 (The Nation Reunited), Time Inc, New York (1987)
Amazing biographical sketch. Thank you.
 
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