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Gen. Robert Edward Lee

Robert E. Lee

Robert E. Lee was born in Virginia in 1807. He had attended West Point, graduated second in his class, and fought in the Mexican War.

At the outbreak of the Civil War, Lee had been promoted to the rank of colonel. He had been the officer in charge of the Marines who stormed the engine house in Harpers Ferry and captured John Brown.

Lee was offered the command of the Union army at the start of the war, but declined because Virginia had joined the Confederacy, and Lee refused to fight against his own family.

His family lived in a mansion in Arlington, overlooking Washington D.C. Today, it sits atop Arlington National Cemetery.

After refusing Lincoln's request to lead the Union army, Robert E. Lee became Jefferson Davis's chief military adviser. In 1862, Lee was appointed the commander of the Army of Northern Virginia.

For the next three years, he is able to win astounding victories against the Northern army although he is often out-manned and out-gunned. Victories at Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, and Manassas stand out as some of his very best.

Lee quickly becomes one of the most beloved generals during the Civil War and American history. He is able to bring the Southern states to the verge of winning the war and seceding from the Union.

His hopes are dashed, however, at Appomattox Court House in Virginia on April 9, 1865, when he is forced to surrender his army to Union Gen. Ulysses S. Grant. Lee tells his men to lay down their arms, return to their farms, and raise their sons as Americans. They must accept the defeat and reunite the country. Lee dies on Oct. 12, 1870, with the words, "strike the tent."


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