Robert E. Lee
1807 - 1870
US Civil War General of the Confederate Army.by Rit Nosotro First Published:: 2003
Robert Edward Lee was born Jan 19, 1807 in Westmoreland County, Virginia. He was the fourth child of Ann and Henry Lee. Although he was born into an important family with many dominant figures, he was also born very poor. His father was not very good at financial issues, so he had many debts. Even though they had no money, they still owned Stratford Hall, which was the big plantation house they lived in. They sometimes had to chain the doors to keep the debt collectors out. But eventually, the collectors won. When Robert was only two years old his father was thrown into prison because he could not meet the creditors' demands.
During Henry's absence, Robert grew very close to his mother. She taught him the Christian faith, and taught him how to pray. After he finished school he applied for a position at West Point Military School, which took over a year to get in. Once there he studied hard, obeyed all of the very strict rules, and ultimately finished at the top of his class. After he finished at West Point he was assigned to Fort Pulaski on Cockspur Island. When work was suspended due to weather problems he returned home and married Mary Custis. After he was married he went to Texas to fight in the Mexican war. During this time he was promoted from Lieutenant to Captain to Colonel. Many of his commanding officers said that he was the best soldier they had ever seen.
At one point, Lee was called to Virginia where a group of men had seized a federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry and were inside with several slaves and hostages. Lee found out that the man inside was John Brown, an abolitionist. John Brown was eventually hanged for the crime, thus creating a martyr to anti-slavery. Within the next two years Texas became the seventh state to secede.
On April 18, 1861, Lee was called to Washington. They wanted him to take command of the Union army being formed to force the seceded states back into the Union. Since Virginia, his home state, was part of the Confederacy he resigned from the Union army, and took a position as commander and chief of Virginia forces in the Confederate army. He said before that he was opposed to war, but that he would take up defense of his state with his sword, and even his life. Lee had many victories in Virginia. In 1862 Jefferson Davis, the elected president of the Confederacy, chose Robert E. Lee to replace Joe Johnston as field commander.
For the next two years Lee's main goal was to protect Richmond, where armaments were produced, and also to protect the North part of the state. Up until 1864 Lee was successful in keeping the enemy out of Richmond. In May 1864 Ulysses S. Grant attacked Lee with massive armies, but still couldn't defeat Lee. Grant gave up on his march on Richmond and instead marched on Petersburg, which was connected to Richmond by railways. Lee had no choice but to take up the defense of Petersburg. He withstood Grant's attacks on the two cities, from late June 1864 - April 1, 1865. Lee said that the end would be "a mere question of time." On April 9th, there was nothing left for him to do but deal with the agony of surrender.
Lee spent months recuperating physically and mentally. During the war, he had sent many letters to his wife and children. He was concerned for their welfare and was glad to be with them again. His wife's plantation had been seized by the government and he had no income. At 58 years old, he took the post of president of Washington College in Lexington, Virginia. Lee never fully gained back all of his health and died in 1870 in his home at Washington College.
Robert E. Lee was a devoted Christian man. He always attended church wherever he was stationed and tried to live a godly life. He loved his family very much. His family was the reason that he went to war in the first place. He personally didn't support slavery but because almost all of the Lee family lived in Virginia, he chose to defend his family and friends instead of fighting against them. He stood up for those he loved and for the convictions he held. He excelled at everything he did, commanding an army, being an excellent educator and a loving father and husband. He was a very good example of how people should live..