Robert E. Lee

Robert E. Lee

Many people believe Robert E. Lee was the best general of the Confederacy—and one of the best generals America has ever produced. Lee came from a well-known Virginia family. His father was the Revolutionary War hero "Light Horse" Harry Lee.

His father was better at fighting than he was at managing money, and when it came time to send Robert to college, he was broke. Lee received an appointment to West Point, the nation's military academy. An excellent and popular student, Lee graduated second in his class. He later married the granddaughter of Martha Washington, Mary Custis.

During the Mexican War, Lee learned battlefield tactics that he would later use in the Civil War. Sadly, he also fought alongside men he would later fight against, such as Ulysses S. Grant.

Lee had served over thirty years in the army when the Civil War broke out. He faced a difficult decision. He loved the Union, opposed secession, and disliked slavery—but he felt he could not fight against his native Virginia. When Lincoln offered him the field command of the Union Army, Lee declined and resigned from the United States Army.

During the Civil War, Lee commanded the Army of Northern Virginia. He was a brilliant leader, decisive, and not afraid to take risks. He awed and inspired his troops with his courage, integrity, honesty, and intelligence. He shared the discomforts of camp with his men. After his surrender to General Grant at Appomattox, Lee urged his men not to be bitter in defeat. After the war, he became president of Washington College which was later renamed Washington and Lee University in his honor. He died in 1870 at the college.

Freedom A History of US close