Robert Edward Lee, known as Robert E. Lee, is best known as the American soldier who commanded the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia during the American Civil War. Robert E. Lee was born at the Stratford Hall Plantation in Westmoreland, Virginia on January 19th, 1807. His father was Major General Henry Lee III, and his father’s second wife Anne Hill Carter. When Robert was only two his father went to debtor’s prison and afterwards left for the West Indies, never returning. Robert E. Lee joined the military to gain a free education and was 18 when he graduated near the top of his class in 1829. Once he graduated he began his military service.
When Robert E. Lee was age six, his father moved to the West Indies and never returned, leaving the family in financially straightened circumstances.
Robert E. Lee’s father (Henry Lee) was a war hero and was often referred to as ‘Light-Horse Harry’. Robert was Henry’s fifth child.
Just under six feet (1.8 metres) tall, with black hair and brown eyes, Robert E. Lee cut a striking figure.
After Robert E. Lee’s father’s sentence in debtor’s prison was over, Robert was six. His father then left for the West Indies and Robert was then raised by his mother.
Between March and September 1847, Lee served on the staff of Winfield Scott during a campaign that ended with the capture of Mexico City.
After graduating from West Point in 1829, second in his class, Robert E. Lee joined the Engineer Corps.
Robert E. Lee held the superintendency of the United States Military Academy (1852–55) and later served as lieutenant colonel of the 2nd Cavalry in Texas.
In 1831 Robert E. Lee married Mary Custis, the great granddaughter of Martha Washington. During their marriage Robert and Mary would have seven children.
Robert E. Lee held views about slavery and abolitionists typical for those of his class and section.
Robert E. Lee first saw combat during the Mexican-American War in 1846, during which he was promoted to colonel. He also gained a reputation as a military leader during the Mexican-American War.
In December 1856 he ruminated at considerable length to his wife on the topic. “Slavery as an institution,” he wrote, “is a moral & political evil in any Country.
In 1852 Robert E. Lee became the superintendent of the U.S. military Academy at West Point. He changed the four year program there to five.
By the time of Lee’s promotion to colonel of the 1st Cavalry on March 16, 1861, seven southern states had seceded and established the Confederate States of America.
In 1855 Robert E. Lee became lieutenant colonel in command of the 2nd Calvary Regiment.
On April 18, the day after Virginia seceded, Lee was offered command of the United States Army being raised to put down the rebellion.
In 1859 Robert E. Lee was in charge of the marines sent to stop the raid at Harper’s Ferry. The raiders were protesting slavery under the leadership of John Brown.
Robert E. Lee submitted his letter of resignation from the U.S. Army on April 20 (after five days of processing in the War Department, it became official on April 25) and on April 22 accepted appointment as major general of Virginia’s state forces.
President Lincoln offered Robert E. Lee command of the Union Army in 1861 when the Civil War began. Despite the fact that he didn’t agree with slavery he turned Lincoln down and returned to Virginia.
Robert E. Lee was a Confederate major general for two days after Virginia joined the Confederacy officially and then he became the third full General of the Confederate Army. He ranked after Samuel Cooper and Albert Sidney Johnston.
Robert also became military advisor to the Confederate President Jefferson Davis.
Robert’s plans were too complicated for the volunteer troops he sent and was defeated at Rich Mountain. He received the nickname ‘Granny Lee’ after retreating because he was not willing to shed blood unnecessarily.
At the Seven Days Battle Robert E. Lee regained his positive reputation by driving the enemy army back from Richmond, Virginia.
Lee’s greatest victory occurred at the end of April 1863 during the Battle of Chancellorsville when his army divided and stopped the Union Army at Salem Church.
In 1865 Robert E. Lee was named commander-in-chief of all Confederate armies but it was too late and he surrendered on April 9th, 1965 to Grant.
Robert returned to Richmond with his family, and then to Lexington, in late 1865 when he accepted a position as Washington College’s president.
Robert E. Lee had heart disease for several years prior to his death on October 2nd, 1870.