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Robert E. Lee

General Robert E. Lee (January 19, 1807 – October 12, 1870) was the son of Revolutionary War hero Henry “Light-Horse Harry” Lee.

Born in Stratford Hall, VA, Lee seemed destined for military greatness. Despite financial hardship that caused his father to depart to the West Indies, young Robert secured an appointment to the United States Military Academy at West Point, where he graduated second in the class of 1829.  Two years later, he married Mary Anna Randolph Custis, a descendant of George Washington.  Yet with for all his military pedigree, Lee had yet to set foot on a battlefield.

Instead, he served seventeen years as an officer in the Corps of Engineers, supervising and inspecting the construction of the nation’s coastal defenses.  Service during the 1846 war with Mexico, however, changed that.  As a member of General Winfield Scott’s staff, Lee distinguished himself, earning three brevets for gallantry, and emerging from the conflict with the rank of colonel.

From 1852 to 1855, Lee served as superintendent of West Point, and was therefore responsible for educating many of the men who would later serve under him – and those who would oppose him – on the battlefields of the Civil War.  In 1855 he left the academy to take a position in the cavalry and in 1859 was called upon to put down abolitionist John Brown’s raid at Harpers Ferry.

More Fascinating Facts for Robert E. Lee

What war-altering order did General Lee give today?

Thure_de_Thulstrup_-_L._Prang_and_Co._-_Battle_of_Gettysburg_-_Restoration_by_Adam_CuerdenJune 29, 1863 — The Civil War heated up today (literally, as temperatures reportedly hit 87-degrees) when General Robert E. Lee ordered his forces to concentrate near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

On July 1, the Battle of Gettysburg will begin, and last until July 3. Between the two armies, approximately 51,000 soldiers will die or be injured. This is the turning point of the war — as it was one of the biggest victories for the Union.

The battle is commemorated on November 19, when President Lincoln delivers his historic 272-word Gettysburg Address.

Which battles began and ended the Civil War today?

Robert_E_LeeWikimediaJune 3, 1861 — The Battle at Philippi, West Virginia, is considered the first land battle of the Civil War.  The Confederacy hardly resisted the attacks and troops were defeated, enabling the Union to press on toward Richmond, VA — the Confederacy’s capital city. The battle is also known for the war’s first usage of battlefield amputations.

June 3, 1864 — Three years later, to the day, Commander of the Confederacy General Robert E. Lee won his last victory of the war at the Battle of Cold Harbor. This Battle is known to have marked the beginning of the end for the Confederate states.

Which general was named commander of Virginia Confederate forces today?

RobertELeeApril 23, 1861 — Robert E. Lee was named commander of Virginia Confederate forces in the US Civil War today. 

Earlier this month, President Abraham Lincoln offered Lee the command of the Federal forces because of his reputation as one of the finest officers in the United States Army. Lee declined.

He tendered his resignation from the army when the state of Virginia seceded on April 17, arguing that he could not fight against his own people. Instead, he accepted a general’s commission in the newly formed Confederate Army.

Flash forward to September 11, 1861: Lee’s first military engagement of the Civil War occurred at Cheat Mountain, Virginia (now West Virginia). It was a Union victory but Lee’s reputation withstood the public criticism that followed. He served as military advisor to President Jefferson Davis until June 1862 when he was given command of the wounded General Joseph E. Johnston’s embattled army on the Virginia peninsula.

Lee renamed his command the Army of Northern Virginia, and under his direction it would become the most famous and successful of the Confederate armies.  This same organization also boasted some of the Confederacy’s most inspiring military figures, including James Longstreet,Stonewall Jackson and the flamboyant cavalier J.E.B. Stuart.  With these trusted subordinates, Lee commanded troops that continually manhandled their blue-clad adversaries and embarrassed their generals no matter what the odds.

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