Robert E. Lee

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(1807-1870), American soldier, general in the Confederate States army, was the youngest son of major-general Henry Lee, called " Light Horse Harry." He was born at Stratford, Westmoreland county, Virginia, on the 19th of January 1807, and entered West Point in 1825. Graduating four years later second in his class, he was given a commission in the U.S. Engineer Corps. In 1831 he married Mary, daughter of G. W. P. Custis, the adopted son of Washington and the grandson of Mrs. Washington. In 1836 he became first lieutenant, and in 1838 captain. In this rank he took part in the Mexican War,

Robert E. Lee

Later in Life

Repeatedly winning distinction for conduct and bravery. He received the brevets of major for Cerro Gordo, lieut.-colonel for Contreras-Churubusco and colonel for Chapultepec. After the war he was employed in engineer work at Washington and Baltimore, during which time, as before the war, he resided on the great Arlington estate, near Washington, which had come to him through his wife. In 1852 he was appointed superintendent of West Point, and during his three years here he carried out many important changes in the academy. Under him as cadets were his son G. W. Custis Lee, his nephew, Fitzhugh Lee and J. E. B. Stuart, all of whom became general officers in the Civil War. In 1855 he was appointed as lieut.-colonel to the 2nd Cavalry, commanded by Colonel Sidney Johnston, with whom he served against the Indians of the Texas border. In 1859, while at Arlington on leave, he was summoned to command the United States troops sent to deal with the John Brown raid on Harper's Ferry. In March 1861 he was made colonel of the 1st U.S. Cavalry; but his career in the old army ended with the secession of Virginia in the following month. Lee was strongly averse to secession, but felt obliged to conform to the action of his own state. The Federal authorities offered Lee the command of the field army about to invade the South, which he refused. Resigning his commission, he made his way to Richmond and was at once made a major-general in the Virginian forces. A few weeks later he became a brigadier-general (then the highest rank) in the Confederate service.

The military operations with which the great Civil War opened in 1861 were directed by President Davis and General Lee. Lee was personally in charge of the unsuccessful West Virginian operations in the autumn, and, having been made a full general on the 31st of August, during the winter he devoted his experience as an engineer to the fortification and general defense of the Atlantic coast.

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