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Robert Edward Lee
January 19, 1807 (1807-01-19)October 12, 1870 (1870-10-13) (aged 63)
Robert Edward Lee.jpg
Robert E Lee Signature.svg
Robert E. Lee, General of the Confederate Army (1863, Julian Vannerson)
Place of birth Stratford Hall, Virginia
Place of death Lexington, Virginia
Resting place Lee Chapel
Washington and Lee University
Lexington, Virginia
Allegiance United States of America
Confederate States of America
Years of service 1829–61 (USA)
1861–65 (CSA)
Rank Colonel (USA)
General (CSA)
Commands held Army of Northern Virginia
Battles/wars Mexican–American War
American Civil War
Other work President of Washington and Lee University

Robert Edward Lee (January 19, 1807 – October 12, 1870) was a career United States Army officer, a combat engineer, and among the most celebrated generals in American history. Lee was the son of Major General Henry Lee III "Light Horse Harry" (1756–1818), Governor of Virginia, and his second wife, Anne Hill Carter (1773–1829). He was also related to Meriwether Lewis (1774–1809).[1]

A top graduate of West Point, Lee distinguished himself as an exceptional soldier in the U.S. Army for thirty-two years. He is best known for commanding the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia in the American Civil War.

In early 1861, President Abraham Lincoln invited Lee to take command of the entire Union Army. Lee declined because his home state of Virginia was seceding from the Union, despite Lee's wishes. When Virginia seceded from the Union in April 1861, Lee chose to follow his home state. Lee's eventual role in the newly established Confederacy was to serve as a senior military adviser to President Jefferson Davis. Lee's first field command for the Confederate States came in June 1862 when he took command of the Confederate forces in the East (which Lee himself renamed the "Army of Northern Virginia").

Lee's greatest victories were the Seven Days Battles, the Second Battle of Bull Run, the Battle of Fredericksburg, the Battle of Chancellorsville, and the Battle of Cold Harbor but both of his campaigns to invade the North ended in failure. Barely escaping defeat at the Battle of Antietam in 1862, Lee was forced to return to the South. In early July 1863, Lee was decisively defeated at the Battle of Gettysburg in Pennsylvania. However, due to ineffectual pursuit by the commander of Union forces, Major General George Meade, Lee escaped again to Virginia.

In the spring of 1864, the new Union commander, Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant, began a series of campaigns to wear down Lee's army. In the Overland Campaign of 1864 and the Siege of Petersburg in 1864–1865, Lee inflicted heavy casualties on Grant's larger army, but was unable to replace his own losses. In early April 1865, Lee's depleted forces were turned from their entrenchments near the Confederate capital of Richmond, Virginia, and he began a strategic retreat. Lee's subsequent surrender at Appomattox Courthouse on April 9, 1865 represented the loss of only one of the remaining Confederate field armies, but it was a psychological blow from which the South could not recover. By June 1865, all of the remaining Confederate armies had capitulated.

Lee's victories against superior forces won him enduring fame as a crafty and daring battlefield tactician, but some of his strategic decisions, such as invading the North in 1862 and 1863, have been criticized by many military historians.

In the final months of the Civil War, as manpower reserves drained away, Lee adopted a plan to arm slaves to fight on behalf of the Confederacy, but this came too late to change the outcome of the war. After Appomattox, Lee discouraged Southern dissenters from starting a guerrilla campaign to continue the war, and encouraged reconciliation between the North and the South.

After the war, as a college President, Lee supported President Andrew Johnson's program of Reconstruction and inter-sectional friendship, while opposing the Radical Republican proposals to give freed slaves the vote and take the vote away from ex-Confederates. He urged them to re-think their position between the North and the South, and the reintegration of former Confederates into the nation's political life. Lee became the great Southern hero of the war, and his popularity grew in the North as well after his death in 1870. He remains an iconic figure of American military leadership.

Stained glass of Lee's life in the National Cathedral, depicting his time at West Point, his service in the Army Corps of Engineers, the Battle of Chancellorsville, and his death

Contents

Early life and career

Robert E. Lee was born January 19, 1807 at Stratford Hall Plantation in Westmoreland County, Virginia, the fifth child of Revolutionary War hero Henry Lee ("Light Horse Harry") and Anne Hill (née Carter) Lee. Lee's parents were members of the Virginia gentry class. Lee's paternal ancestors were among the earliest settlers in Virginia. His mother grew up at Shirley Plantation, one of the most elegant homes in Virginia. His maternal great-great-grandfather, Robert "King" Carter of Corotoman, was the wealthiest man in the colonies when he died in 1732. "Harry Lee" met severe financial reverses from failed investments. Historian Gary W. Gallagher wrote, "Harry Lee had not been able to exercise self-control or take care of his family, and so he abandoned them." That was a stark lesson for young Robert E. Lee."[2] However, in Lee of Virginia it is noted that Harry Lee "was very seriously injured by a mob in Baltimore while attempting to defend the house of a friend. Later he made a voyage to the West Indies seeking restoration for his shattered health. On his way home ... he died..."[3] Lee of Virginia also notes "...in the West Indies, Henry Lee wrote a series of letters to his son, Carter..."During his young life,. later described by Robert E. Lee as "'Those letters of love and wisdom.'"[4]

Lee's father died when Lee was 11 years old, leaving the family deeply in debt. When Lee was 3 years old, his older half-brother, the heir to the Stratford Hall Plantation, having reached his majority, established Stratford as his home. The rest of the family moved to Alexandria, Virginia, where Lee grew up in a series of relatives' houses. Lee attended Alexandria Academy, where he studied Greek, Latin, algebra and geometry. Lee was considered a top student and excelled at mathematics. His mother, a devout Christian, oversaw his religious instruction at Christ Episcopal Church in Alexandria.

He entered the United States Military Academy in 1825 and became the first cadet to achieve the rank of sergeant at the end of his first year. When he graduated in 1829 he was at the head of his class in artillery and tactics, and shared the distinction with five other cadets of having received no demerits during the four-year course of instruction. Overall, he ranked second in his class of 46.[5] He was commissioned as a brevet second lieutenant in the Corps of Engineers.

Combat engineer career

Lee served for just over 17 months at Fort Pulaski on Cockspur Island, Georgia. In 1831 he was transferred to Fort Monroe at the tip of the Virginia Peninsula and played a major role in the final construction of Fort Monroe and its opposite, Fort Calhoun. Fort Monroe was completely surrounded by a moat. Fort Calhoun, later renamed Fort Wool, was built on a man-made island across the navigational channel from Old Point Comfort in the middle of the mouth of Hampton Roads. When construction was completed in 1834, Fort Monroe was referred to as the "Gibraltar of Chesapeake Bay." While he was stationed at Fort Monroe, he married.

Lee served as an assistant in the chief engineer's office in Washington, D.C. from 1834 to 1837, but spent the summer of 1835 helping to lay out the state line between Ohio and Michigan. As a first lieutenant of engineers in 1837, he supervised the engineering work for St. Louis harbor and for the upper Mississippi and Missouri rivers. Among his projects was blasting a channel through the Des Moines Rapids on the Mississippi by Keokuk, Iowa, where the Mississippi's mean depth of 2.4 feet (0.7 m) was the upper limit of steamboat traffic on the river. His work there earned him a promotion to captain. Circa 1842, Captain Robert E. Lee arrived as Fort Hamilton's post engineer.[1]

Marriage and family

While he was stationed at Fort Monroe, he married Mary Anna Randolph Custis (1808–1873), great-granddaughter of Martha Washington by her first husband Daniel Parke Custis, and step-great-granddaughter of George Washington, the first president of the United States. Mary was the only surviving child of George Washington Parke Custis, George Washington's stepgrandson, and Mary Lee Fitzhugh Custis, daughter of William Fitzhugh[6] and Ann Randolph. They were married on June 30, 1831 at Arlington House, her parents' house just across from Washington, D.C. The 3rd U.S. Artillery served as honor guard at the marriage. They eventually had seven children, three boys and four girls:

  1. George Washington Custis Lee (Custis, "Boo"); 1832–1913; served as Major General in the Confederate Army and aide-de-camp to President Jefferson Davis; unmarried
  2. Mary Custis Lee (Mary, "Daughter"); 1835–1918; unmarried
  3. William Henry Fitzhugh Lee ("Rooney"); 1837–1891; served as Major General in the Confederate Army (cavalry); married twice; surviving children by second marriage
  4. Anne Carter Lee (Annie); June 18, 1839 – October 20, 1862; died of typhoid fever, unmarried
  5. Eleanor Agnes Lee (Agnes); 1841 – October 15, 1873; died of tuberculosis, unmarried
  6. Robert Edward Lee, Jr. (Rob); 1843–1914; served as Captain in the Confederate Army (Rockbridge Artillery); married twice; surviving children by second marriage
  7. Mildred Childe Lee (Milly, "Precious Life"); 1846–1905; unmarried

All the children survived him except for Annie, who died in 1862. They are all buried with their parents in the crypt of the Lee Chapel at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia. Lee is also related to Helen Keller, through Helen's mother, Kate. On May 1, 1864, General Lee was at General A.P. Hill's daughters baptism, Lucy Lee Hill, to serve as her Godfather. This is evidenced by the painting Tender is the Heart by Mort Künstler.

Mexican-American War, West Point, and Texas

American Occupation of Mexico City

Lee distinguished himself in the Mexican–American War (1846–1848). He was one of Winfield Scott's chief aides in the march from Veracruz to Mexico City. He was instrumental in several American victories through his personal reconnaissance as a staff officer; he found routes of attack that the Mexicans had not defended because they thought the terrain was impassable.

He was promoted to brevet major after the Battle of Cerro Gordo on April 18, 1847.[7] He also fought at Contreras, Churubusco, and Chapultepec, and was wounded at the last. By the end of the war, he had received additional brevet promotions to Lieutenant Colonel and Colonel, but his permanent rank was still Captain of Engineers and he would remain a Captain until his transfer to the cavalry in 1855.

For the first time Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant met and worked with each other during the Mexican-American War. Both Lee and Grant participated in the Scott's march from the coastal town of Vera Cruz to Mexico City. Grant gained wartime experience as a quartermaster, Lee as an engineer who positioned troops and artillery. Both did their share of actual fighting. At Vera Cruz, Lee earned a commendation for "greatly distinguished" service. Grant was among the leaders at the bloody assault at Molino del Rey, and both soldiers were among the forces that entered Mexico City. Close observations of their commanders constituted a learning process for both Lee and Grant.[8] The Mexican-American War concluded on February 2, 1848.

Robert Edward Lee, as a U.S. Army Colonel before the Civil War

After the Mexican War, he spent three years at Fort Carroll in Baltimore harbor. During this time his service was interrupted by other duties, among them surveying/updating maps in Florida, an offer from Secretary of War Jefferson Davis to lead an attack on Cuba (Lee declined), and a brief military assignment out west. In September 1852, Lee became the superintendent of West Point. During his three years at West Point, Brevet Colonel Robert E. Lee improved the buildings and courses, and spent a lot of time with the cadets. Lee's oldest son, George Washington Custis Lee, attended West Point during his tenure. Custis Lee graduated in 1854, first in his class.

In 1855, Lee's tour of duty at West Point ended and he was appointed Lieutenant Colonel of the newly formed 2nd U.S. Cavalry regiment. It was Lee's first substantive promotion in the Army since his promotion to Captain in 1838, despite having been brevetted a Colonel, which was an honorary promotion. By accepting promotion, Lee left the Corps of Engineers where he had served for over 25 years. The Colonelcy of the regiment was given to Albert Sidney Johnston, who had previously served as a Major in the Paymaster Department, and the regiment was assigned to Camp Cooper, Texas. There he helped protect settlers from attacks by the Apache and the Comanche.

These were not happy years for Lee, as he did not like to be away from his family for long periods of time, especially as his wife was becoming increasingly ill. Lee came home to see her as often as he could. Robert's wife was treated by homeopath Alfred Hughes.[9]

Executor of Custis will

In 1802 the first slaves to inhabit Arlington arrived at the estate with their owner, George Washington Parke Custis. The grandson of Martha Washington and adopted grandson of George Washington, Custis had grown up at Mount Vernon, as had many of his slaves. Upon Martha Washington's death, Custis inherited her slaves and purchased others who belonged to his mother, Eleanor Custis Stuart. In all, Custis owned 196 slaves and as many as 63 lived and worked at Arlington. Some of these slaves enjoyed relatively more freedom than other slaves at Arlington. Some of these slaves had close or personal relationships with their owners.[10]

Custis estate

As a member of the Virginia aristocracy, Lee lived in close contact with slavery before he joined the army and held variously around a half-dozen slaves under his own name. When George Washington Parke Custis died in October 1857, Robert E. Lee, one of four executors of the Custis estate, determined that the slave labor was necessary to improve Arlington's financial status.

The will provided for the slaves to be emancipated "in such a manner as to my executors may seem most expedient and proper", providing a maximum of five years for the legal and logistical details of manumission. Lee found himself in need of funds to pay his father-in-law's debts and repair the properties he had inherited. Custis' will stipulated that all the Arlington slaves should be freed upon his death with any debts and legacies paid for all within a five year period. The Arlington slaves found Lee to be a stringent executor of Custis' will.[10][11] Rather than emancipation, Lee decided to make money by taking control of the slaves, working them on the plantation, and hiring them out to neighboring plantations and to eastern Virginia.

Lee tried to hire an overseer to handle the plantation in his absence, writing to his cousin, "I wish to get an energetic honest farmer, who while he will be considerate & kind to the negroes, will be firm & make them do their duty."[12] Lee failed to find a man for the job, and had to take a two-year leave of absence from the army in order to run the plantation himself. He found the experience frustrating and difficult; some of the slaves were unhappy and demanded their freedom. Many of them had been given to understand that they were to be made free as soon as Custis died.[13] In May 1858, Lee wrote to his son Rooney, "I have had some trouble with some of the people. Reuben, Parks & Edward, in the beginning of the previous week, rebelled against my authority--refused to obey my orders, & said they were as free as I was, etc., etc.--I succeeded in capturing them & lodging them in jail. They resisted till overpowered & called upon the other people to rescue them."[12] Less than two months after they were sent to the Alexandria jail, Lee decided to remove these three men and three female house slaves from Arlington, and sent them under lock and key to the slave-trader William Overton Winston in Richmond, who was instructed to keep them in jail until he could find "good & responsible" slaveholders to work them until the end of the five year period.[12]

In 1859, three of the Arlington slaves—Wesley Norris, his sister Mary, and a cousin of theirs—fled for the North, but were captured a few miles from the Pennsylvania border and forced to return to Arlington. On June 24, 1859, the New York Daily Tribune published two anonymous letters (dated June 19, 1859[14] and June 21, 1859[15]), each of which claimed to have heard that Lee had the Norrises whipped, and went so far as to claim that Lee himself had whipped the woman when the overseer refused to. Lee wrote to his son Custis that "The N. Y. Tribune has attacked me for my treatment of your grandfather's slaves, but I shall not reply. He has left me an unpleasant legacy."[16] Biographers of Lee have differed over the credibility of the Tribune letters. Douglas S. Freeman, in his 1934 biography of Lee, described the letters to the Tribune as "Lee's first experience with the extravagance of irresponsible antislavery agitators" and asserted that "There is no evidence, direct or indirect, that Lee ever had them or any other Negroes flogged. The usage at Arlington and elsewhere in Virginia among people of Lee's station forbade such a thing." Michael Fellman, in The Making of Robert E. Lee (2000), found the claims that Lee had personally whipped Mary Norris "extremely unlikely", but not at all unlikely that Lee had had the slaves whipped: "corporal punishment (for which Lee substituted the euphemism 'firmness') was (believed to be) an intrinsic and necessary part of slave discipline. Although it was supposed to be applied only in a calm and rational manner, overtly physical domination of slaves, unchecked by law, was always brutal and potentially savage."[17]

Wesley Norris' testimony

There was, however, direct testimony given by Wesley Norris that the whipping and brining occurred. Wesley Norris himself discussed the incident after the war, in an 1866 interview[13] printed in the National Anti-Slavery Standard. Norris stated that after they had been captured, and forced to return to Arlington, Lee told them that "he would teach us a lesson we would not soon forget." According to Norris' testimony, Lee then had the three of them firmly tied to posts by Mr. Gwin, the overseer, and ordered them whipped with fifty lashes for the men and twenty for Mary Norris, Wesley Norris' sister. According to Norris, Lee encouraged the whipping, but did not personally inflict the whipping on any of the slaves, male or female. The overseer, Mr. Gwin, had refused to do the whipping. Lee then called in the county constable, Dick Williams, who did the actual whipping. Norris claimed that Lee then had the overseer, Mr. Gwin, rub their lacerated backs with brine (this was a common, if cruel, way to prevent infection from the lacerations). Norris even claimed there were dozens of witnesses to the whipping and brining event.

My name is Wesley Norris; I was born a slave on the plantation of George Parke Custis; after the death of Mr. Custis, Gen. Lee, who had been made executor of the estate, assumed control of the slaves, in number about seventy; it was the general impression among the slaves of Mr. Custis that on his death they should be forever free; in fact this statement had been made to them by Mr. C. years before; at his death we were informed by Gen. Lee that by the conditions of the will we must remain slaves for five years...we were immediately taken before Gen. Lee, who demanded the reason why we ran away; we frankly told him that we considered ourselves free; he then told us he would teach us a lesson we never would forget...we were tied firmly to posts by a Mr. Gwin, our overseer, who was ordered by Gen. Lee to strip us to the waist and give us fifty lashes each, excepting my sister, who received but twenty...[Mr. Gwin] had sufficient humanity to decline whipping us; accordingly Dick Williams, a county constable, was called in, who gave us the number of lashes ordered; Gen. Lee, in the meantime, stood by, and frequently enjoined Williams to ""lay it on well,"" an injunction which he did not fail to heed; not satisfied with simply lacerating our naked flesh, Gen. Lee then ordered the overseer to thoroughly wash our backs with brine, which was done...After this my cousin and myself were sent to Hanover Court-House jail, my sister being sent to Richmond to an agent to be hired; we remained in jail about a week...what I have stated is true in every particular, and I can at any time bring at least a dozen witnesses, both white and black, to substantiate my statements.

—Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 467-468

The Norris brothers were then sent by Lee's agent to work on the railroads in Richmond and Alabama. Wesley Norris gained his freedom in January 1863 by slipping through the Confederate lines near Richmond to Union-controlled territory.[13] Lee freed all the other Custis slaves after the end of the five year period in the winter of 1862, filing the deed of manumission on December 29, 1862.[18]

Late emancipation

Robert E. Lee was late in emancipating the Custis slaves, even by the technicalities of the will. George Washington Parke Custis's will legally required Lee to emancipate the slaves that passed into his control within five years of Custis' death. Custis died October 10, 1857 and his will was probated December 7, 1857. Lee kept the slaves over the five year limit and finally filed the deed of manumission with Court of the City of Richmond, Virginia on December 29, 1862—five years, two months, and nineteen days after Custis' death.[19] The text of the Custis' will is as follows:

And upon the legacies to my four granddaughters being paid, and my estates that are required to pay the said legacies, being clear of debts, then I give freedom to my slaves, the said slaves to be emancipated by my executors in such manner as to my executors may seem most expedient and proper, the said emancipation to be accomplished in not exceeding five years from the time of my decease.[20]

And I do constitute and appoint as my executor Lieut. Col. Robert Edward Lee, Robert Lee Randolph, of Eaton View, Rt. Rev. Bishop Meade, and George Washington Peter.[20]

However, it should be noted that the end of the period occurred during a war, which has long been recognized as a legal excuse for failure to timely perform legal duties. Additionally, it is unclear when the deed of manumission was signed. This may have occurred prior to the end of the period. Additionally, the area around Alexandria, Virginia was under occupation by Federal forces at the time, thus requiring Lee to file the deed in a legally improper place, i.e. Richmond, instead of in Alexandria, where it should have been filed.

Lee's views on slavery

Since the end of the Civil War, it has often been suggested that Lee was in some sense opposed to slavery. In the period following the Civil War and Reconstruction, and after his death, Lee became a central figure in the Lost Cause interpretation of the war, and as succeeding generations came to look on slavery as a terrible immorality, the idea that Lee had always somehow opposed it helped maintain his stature as a symbol of Southern honor and national reconciliation.

Some of the evidence cited in favor of the claim that Lee opposed slavery, are the manumission of Custis' slaves, as discussed above, and his support, towards the end of the war, for enrolling slaves in the Confederate States Army, with manumission offered as an eventual reward for good service. Lee gave his public support to this idea two weeks before Appomattox, too late for it to do any good for the Confederacy.

In December 1864, Lee was shown a letter by Louisiana Senator Edward Sparrow, written by General St. John R. Liddell, which noted that Lee would be hard-pressed in the interior of Virginia by spring, and the need to consider Patrick Cleburne's plan to emancipate the slaves and put all men in the army that were willing to join. Lee was said to have agreed on all points and desired to get black soldiers, saying that "he could make soldiers out of any human being that had arms and legs."[21]

Another source is Lee's 1856 letter to his wife,[22] which can be interpreted in multiple ways:

... In this enlightened age, there are few I believe, but what will acknowledge, that slavery as an institution, is a moral & political evil in any Country. It is useless to expatiate on its disadvantages. I think it however a greater evil to the white man than to the black race, & while my feelings are strongly enlisted in behalf of the latter, my sympathies are more strong for the former. The blacks are immeasurably better off here than in Africa, morally, socially & physically. The painful discipline they are undergoing, is necessary for their instruction as a race, & I hope will prepare & lead them to better things. How long their subjugation may be necessary is known & ordered by a wise Merciful Providence.

Freeman's analysis[22] puts Lee's attitude toward slavery and abolition in historical context:

This [letter] was the prevailing view among most religious people of Lee's class in the border states. They believed that slavery existed because God willed it and they thought it would end when God so ruled. The time and the means were not theirs to decide, conscious though they were of the ill-effects of Negro slavery on both races. Lee shared these convictions of his neighbors without having come in contact with the worst evils of African bondage. He spent no considerable time in any state south of Virginia from the day he left Fort Pulaski in 1831 until he went to Texas in 1856. All his reflective years had been passed in the North or in the border states. He had never been among the blacks on a cotton or rice plantation. At Arlington the servants had been notoriously indolent, their master's master. Lee, in short, was only acquainted with slavery at its best and he judged it accordingly. At the same time, he was under no illusion regarding the aims of the Abolitionist or the effect of their agitation.

Harpers Ferry and Texas, 1859-61

Both Harpers Ferry and the secession of Texas were monumental events leading up to the Civil War. Robert E. Lee was at both events. Lee initially remained loyal to the Union after Texas seceded.

Harpers Ferry

When John Brown led a band of 21 men (including five African Americans) and seized the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Virginia in October 1859, Lee was given command of detachments of Maryland and Virginia militia, soldiers, and United States Marines, to suppress the uprising and arrest its leaders.[23] By the time Lee arrived later that night, the militia on the site had surrounded Brown and his hostages. When on October 18 Brown refused the demand for surrender, Lee attacked and after three minutes of fighting, Brown and his followers were captured.

Robert E. Lee made a summary report of the events that took place at Harpers Ferry to Colonel Samuel Cooper, the U. S. Army Adjutant General. According to Lee's notes Lee believed John Brown was insane,"...the plan [raiding the Harpers Ferry Arsenal] was the attempt of a fanatic or mad­man". Lee also believed that the African Americans used in the raid were forced to by John Brown himself. "The blacks, whom he [John Brown] forced from their homes in this neighborhood, as far as I could learn, gave him no voluntary assistance." Lee attributed John Brown's "temporary success" by creating panic and confusion and by "magnifying" the number of participants involved in the raid.[24]

Texas

When Texas seceded from the Union in February 1861, General David E. Twiggs surrendered all the American forces (about 4,000 men, including Lee, and commander of the Department of Texas) to the Texans. Twiggs immediately resigned from the U. S. Army and was made a Confederate general. Lee went back to Washington, and was appointed Colonel of the First Regiment of Cavalry in March 1861. Lee's Colonelcy was signed by the new President, Abraham Lincoln. Three weeks after his promotion, Colonel Lee was offered a senior command (with the rank of Major General) in the expanding Army to fight the Southern States that had left the Union.

Civil War

Mathew Brady portrait of Lee on April 16, 1865, Richmond, Virginia. (detail)

Lee privately ridiculed the Confederacy in letters in early 1861, denouncing secession as "revolution" and a betrayal of the efforts of the founders. The commanding general of the Union Army, Winfield Scott, told Lincoln he wanted Lee for a top command. Lee accepted a promotion to colonel on March 28.[25] Lee had earlier been asked by one of his lieutenants if he intended to fight for the Confederacy or the Union, to which he replied, "I shall never bear arms against the Union, but it may be necessary for me to carry a musket in the defense of my native state, Virginia, in which case I shall not prove recreant to my duty."[26] Meanwhile, Lee ignored an offer of command from the CSA. After Lincoln's call for troops to put down the rebellion, it was obvious that Virginia would quickly secede. So Lee turned down an April 18 offer to become a major general in the U.S. Army, resigned on April 20 and took up command of the Virginia state forces on April 23.

Early role

At the outbreak of war, Lee was appointed to command all of Virginia's forces, but upon the formation of the Confederate States Army, he was named one of its first five full generals. Lee did not wear the insignia of a Confederate general, but only the three stars of a Confederate colonel, equivalent to his last U.S. Army rank. He did not intend to wear a general's insignia until the Civil War had been won and he could be promoted, in peacetime, to general in the Confederate Army.

Lee's first field assignment was commanding Confederate forces in western Virginia, where he was defeated at the Battle of Cheat Mountain and was widely blamed for Confederate setbacks.[27] He was then sent to organize the coastal defenses along the Carolina and Georgia seaboard, where he was hampered by the lack of an effective Confederate navy. Once again blamed by the press, he became military adviser to Confederate Pres. Jefferson Davis, former U.S. Secretary of War. While in Richmond, Lee was ridiculed as the 'King of Spades' for his excessive digging of trenches around the capitol. These trenches would later play an important role in battles near the end of the war.[28]

Commander, Army of Northern Virginia

In the spring of 1862, during the Peninsula Campaign, the Union Army of the Potomac under General George B. McClellan advanced upon Richmond from Fort Monroe, eventually reaching the eastern edges of the Confederate capital along the Chickahominy River. Following the wounding of Gen. Joseph E. Johnston at the Battle of Seven Pines, on June 1, 1862, Lee assumed command of the Army of Northern Virginia, his first opportunity to lead an army in the field. Newspaper editorials of the day objected to his appointment due to concerns that Lee would not be aggressive and would wait for the Union army to come to him. Early in the war his men called him "Granny Lee" because of his allegedly timid style of command.[29] After the Seven Days Battles until the end of the war his men called him simply "Marse Robert." He oversaw substantial strengthening of Richmond's defenses during the first three weeks of June and then launched a series of attacks, the Seven Days Battles, against McClellan's forces. Lee's attacks resulted in heavy Confederate casualties and they were marred by clumsy tactical performances by his subordinates, but his aggressive actions unnerved McClellan, who retreated to a point on the James River where Union naval forces were in control. These successes led to a rapid turn-around of public opinion and the newspaper editorials quickly changed their tune on Lee's aggressiveness.

After McClellan's retreat, Lee defeated another Union army at the Second Battle of Bull Run. Within 90 days of taking command, Lee had run McClellan off the Peninsula, defeated Pope at Second Manassas, and the battle lines had moved from 6 miles outside Richmond, to 20 miles outside Washington. Instead of a quick end to the war that the Peninsula Campaign had promised in its early stages, the war would go on for almost another 3 years and claim a half million more lives. He then invaded Maryland, hoping to replenish his supplies and possibly influence the Northern elections to fall in favor of ending the war. McClellan's men recovered a lost order that revealed Lee's plans. McClellan always exaggerated Lee's forces, but now he knew the Confederate army was divided and could be destroyed by an all-out attack at Antietam. Yet McClellan was too slow in moving, not realizing Lee had been informed by a spy that McClellan had the plans. Lee urgently recalled Stonewall Jackson and in the bloodiest day of the war, Lee withstood the Union assaults. He withdrew his battered army back to Virginia while President Abraham Lincoln used the reverse as sufficient pretext to announce the Emancipation Proclamation to put the Confederacy on the diplomatic and moral defensive.

September 1866 Lee mounted on Traveller

Disappointed by McClellan's failure to destroy Lee's army, Lincoln named Ambrose Burnside as commander of the Army of the Potomac. Burnside ordered an attack across the Rappahannock River at Fredericksburg. Delays in getting bridges built across the river allowed Lee's army ample time to organize strong defenses, and the attack on December 12, 1862, was a disaster for the Union. Lincoln then named Joseph Hooker commander of the Army of the Potomac. Hooker's advance to attack Lee in May, 1863, near Chancellorsville, Virginia, was defeated by Lee and Stonewall Jackson's daring plan to divide the army and attack Hooker's flank. It was a victory over a larger force, but it also came with a great cost; Jackson, one of Lee's best subordinates, was accidentally wounded by his own troops, and soon after died of pneumonia.

General order #59

General Lee's last visit to Stonewall Jackson's grave, painting by Louis Eckhardt, 1872.
US Postage Stamp, 1937 issue, depicting Generals Lee and Jackson

Lee issued an order or speech after the Battle of Chancellorsville on May 6, 1863. The order was printed in Harpers Weekly May 23, 1863. Lee was expecting Jackson, "one", to be back in battle, who at the time was still living but mortally wounded. Lee recommended that the troops meet on Sunday to give thanks to God. It was not a direct order, but just a recommended commemorative action.

GENERAL ORDERS—No. 59.

HEAD-QUARTERS, ARMY OF NORTHERN VIRGINIA.

May 7, 1863.

With heart-felt gratification the General Commanding expresses to the army his sense of the heroic conduct displayed by officers and men during the arduous operations in which they have just been engaged. Under trying vicissitudes of heat and storm you attacked the enemy, strongly intrenched in the depths of a tangled wilderness, and again on the hills of Fredericksburg, fifteen miles distant, and, by the valor that has triumphed on so many fields, forced him once more to seek safety beyond the Rappahannock. While this glorious victory entitles you to the praise and gratitude of the nation, we are especially called upon to return our grateful thanks to the only giver of victory for the signal deliverance He has wrought. It is, therefore, earnestly recommended that the troops unite on Sunday next in ascribing to the Lord of Hosts the glory due unto His name. Let us not forget in our rejoicing the brave soldiers who have fallen in defense of their country; and while we mourn their loss let us resolve to emulate their noble example. The army and the country alike lament the absence for a time of one to whose bravery, energy, and skill they are so much indebted for success.

[30]

Battle of Gettysburg

Battle of Gettysburg, by Currier and Ives

In the summer of 1863, Lee invaded the North again, hoping for a Southern victory that would shatter Northern morale. A young Pennsylvanian woman who watched from her porch as General Lee passed by remarked, "I wish he were ours."[citation needed] He encountered Union forces under George G. Meade at the three-day Battle of Gettysburg in Pennsylvania in July; the battle would produce the largest number of casualties in the American Civil War. Some of his subordinates were new and inexperienced in their commands, J.E.B. Stuart's cavalry was out of the area, slightly ill, and thus Lee was less than comfortable with how events were unfolding. While the first day of battle was controlled by the Confederates, key terrain which should have been taken by General Ewell was not. The Second day ended with the Confederates unable to break the Union position, and the Union more solidified. Lee's decision on the third day, against the sound judgment of his best corps commander General Longstreet, to launch a massive frontal assault on the center of the Union line was disastrous. The assault known as Pickett's Charge— was repulsed and resulted in heavy Confederate losses. The general rode out to meet his retreating army and proclaimed, "All this has been MY my fault."[31] Lee was compelled to retreat. Despite flooded rivers that blocked his retreat, he escaped Meade's ineffective pursuit. Following his defeat at Gettysburg, Lee sent a letter of resignation to Pres. Davis on August 8, 1863, but Davis refused Lee's request. That fall, Lee and Meade met again in two minor campaigns that did little to change the strategic standoff. The Confederate Army never fully recovered from the substantial losses incurred during the 3-day battle in southern Pennsylvania. The historian Shelby Foote stated, "Gettysburg was the price the South paid for having Robert E. Lee as commander."

Ulysses S. Grant and the Union offensive

In 1864 the new Union general-in-chief, Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, sought to use his large advantages in manpower and material resources to destroy Lee's army by attrition, pinning Lee against his capital of Richmond. Lee successfully stopped each attack, but Grant with his superior numbers kept pushing each time a bit farther to the southeast. These battles in the Overland Campaign included the Wilderness, Spotsylvania Court House and Cold Harbor.

Grant eventually was able to stealthily move his army across the James River. After stopping a Union attempt to capture Petersburg, Virginia, a vital railroad link supplying Richmond, Lee's men built elaborate trenches and were besieged in Petersburg. (This development presaged the trench warfare of World War I, exactly 50 years later.) He attempted to break the stalemate by sending Jubal A. Early on a raid through the Shenandoah Valley to Washington, D.C., but was defeated early on by the superior forces of Philip Sheridan. The Siege of Petersburg lasted from June 1864 until March 1865, with Lee's outnumbered and poorly supplied army shrinking daily because of desertions by disheartened Confederates.

General-in-chief

Confederate General-in-Chief Robert E. Lee photographed in 1865
Lee with son Custis (left) and aide Walter H. Taylor (right). Photographed at Lee's Richmond, Virginia residence by Brady on April 16, 1865.

On January 31, 1865, Lee was promoted to general-in-chief of Confederate forces.

As the South ran out of manpower the issue of arming the slaves became paramount. By late 1864 the army so dominated the Confederacy that civilian leaders were unable to block the military's proposal, strongly endorsed by Lee, to arm and train slaves in Confederate uniform for combat. In return for this service, slave soldiers and their families would be emancipated. Lee explained, "We should employ them without delay ... [along with] gradual and general emancipation." The first units were in training as the war ended.[32] As the Confederate army was decimated by casualties, disease and desertion, the Union attack on Petersburg succeeded on April 2, 1865. Lee abandoned Richmond and retreated west. His forces were surrounded and he surrendered them to Grant on April 9, 1865, at Appomattox Court House, Virginia. Other Confederate armies followed suit and the war ended. The day after his surrender, Lee issued his Farewell Address to his army.

Lee resisted calls by some officers to reject surrender and allow small units to melt away into the mountains, setting up a lengthy guerrilla war. He insisted the war was over and energetically campaigned for inter-sectional reconciliation. "So far from engaging in a war to perpetuate slavery, I am rejoiced that slavery is abolished. I believe it will be greatly for the interests of the South."[33]

Lee's civil war battle summaries

The following are summaries of Union and Confederate battles where Robert E. Lee is the Commanding Officer. Battles that did not end in a decisive victory are labeled "Inconclusive" or "Draw".[34]

1861

Cheat mountain

September 11–13 - Union victory (Lee's first battle of the Civil War. Lee was severely criticized for the defeat and named "Granny Lee". Lee was sent to South Carolina to supervise fortifications.)[35]

Lee's troop strength - 15,000, casualties - 100
Reynolds's troop strengths - 2,000, casualties - 21

1862

Seven days

6/25/1862 to 7/1/1862 - Inconclusive

Lee's troop strength - 95,000, casualties - 20,614
McClellan's troop strengths - 91,000, casualties - 15,849
  • Oak Grove - Draw (Union withdrawal.)
  • Beaver Dam Creek - Union victory
  • Gaine's Mill - Confederate victory
  • Savage's Station - Draw
  • Glendale - Draw (Union withdrawal.)
  • Malvern Hill - Union victory

Second Manassas

8/28/1862 to 8/30/1862 Confederate victory

Lee's troop strength - 49,000, casualties - 9,197
Pope's troop strengths - 76,000, casualties - 16,054

South mountain

9/14/1862 Union victory

Lee's troop strength - 18,000, casualties - 2,685
McClellan's troop strength - 28,000, casualties - 1,813

Antietam

9/16/1862 to 9/18/1862 - Inconclusive (Union strategic victory.)

Lee's troop strength - 52,000, casualties - 13,724
McClellan's troop strength - 75,000, casualties - 12,410

Fredericksburg

12/11/1862 - Confederate victory (Lee's troops and supplies depleted.)

Lee's troop strength - 72,000, casualties - 5,309
Burnside's troop strength - 114,000, casualties - 12,653

1863

Chancellorsville

5/1/1863 - Confederate victory

Lee's troop strength - 57,000, casualties - 12,764
Hooker's troop strength - 105,000, casualties - 16,792

Gettysburg

7/1/1863 - Union Victory (The Confederate army that returned from the fight at Gettysburg was physically and spiritually exhausted. Lee would never again attempt an offensive operation of such monumental proportions. Meade, who had forced Lee to retreat, was criticized for not immediately pursuing Lee's army. This battle become known as the High Water Mark of the Confederacy.[36] Lee would never personally invade the North again after this battle. Rather he was determined to defend Richmond and eventually Petersburg at all costs.)

Lee's troop strength - 75,000, casualties - 28,063
Meade's troop strength - 83,000, casualties - 23,049

1864

Wilderness

5/5/1864 - Inconclusive (Grant continued his offensive.)

Lee's troop strength - 61,000, casualties - 11,400
Grant's troop strength - 102,000, casualties - 18,400

Spotsylvania

5/12/1864 - Inconclusive (Grant continued his offensive.)

Lee's troop strength - 52,000, casualties - 12,000
Hancock's troop strength - 100,000, casualties - 18,000

Cold harbor

6/1/1864 - Confederate victory

Lee's troop strength - 62,000, casualties - 2,500
Grant's troop strength - 108,000, casualties - 12,000

Deep bottom

8/14/1864 Confederate victory (Union attempt to attack Richmond, the Confederate Capital.)

Lee's troop strength - 20,000, casualties - 1,700
Hancock's troop strength - 28,000, casualties - 2,901

1865

Appomattox campaign

3/29/1865 - Union victory (General Robert E. Lee Surrenders to General Ulysses S. Grant. Casualties on Confederate side are enormous.[37] After the surrender Grant gave Lee's army much-needed food rations, made them lay down their arms and return to their homes, never to take up arms against the Union again.)

Lee's troop strength - 50,000, casualties - No Record Available
Grant's troop strength - 113,000, casualties - 10,780

After the war

One of the last known images of Lee, post-Civil War

Before the Civil War, Lee and his wife had lived at his wife's family home, the Custis-Lee Mansion on Arlington Plantation. The plantation had been seized by Union forces during the war, and became part of Arlington National Cemetery; immediately following the war, Lee spent two months in a rented house in Richmond, and then escaped the unwelcome city life by moving into the overseer's house of a friend's plantation near Cartersville, Virginia.[38] (In December 1882, the U.S. Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, returned the property to Custis Lee, stating that it had been confiscated without due process of law.[39][40] On March 3, 1883, the Congress purchased the property from Lee for $150,000.[41])

While living in the country, Lee wrote his son that he hoped to retire to a farm of his own, but a few weeks later he received an offer to serve as the president of Washington College (now Washington and Lee University) in Lexington, Virginia. Lee accepted, and remained president of the College from October 2, 1865 until his death. Over five years, he transformed Washington College from a small, undistinguished school into one of the first American colleges to offer courses in business, journalism, and Spanish. He also imposed a simple concept of honor—"We have but one rule here, and it is that every student be a gentleman" — that endures today at Washington and Lee and at a few other schools that continue to maintain "honor systems." Importantly, Lee focused the college on attracting male students from the North as well as the South.

President Johnson's amnesty pardon

President Andrew Johnson, in a proclamation dated December 25, 1868 (15 Stat. 711), gave an unconditional pardon to those who "directly or indirectly" rebelled against the United States.

...unconditionally, and without reservation, to all and every person who directly or indirectly participated in the late insurrection or rebellion, a full pardon and amnesty for the offence of treason against the United States, or of adhering to their enemies during the late civil war, with restoration of all rights, privileges, and immunities under the Constitution and the laws which have been made in pursuance thereof.[42]

Lee, with this full amnesty pardon by President Johnson could not be held liable for treason or insurrection against the United States. Lee was posthumously officially reinstated as a United States citizen by President Gerald Ford in 1975.

Postwar politics

Lee, who had opposed secession and remained mostly indifferent to politics before the Civil War, supported President Johnson's plan of Presidential Reconstruction that took effect in 1865–66. However, he opposed the Congressional Republican program that took effect in 1867. In February 1866, he was called to testify before the Joint Congressional Committee on Reconstruction in Washington, where he expressed support for President Andrew Johnson's plans for quick restoration of the former Confederate states, and argued that restoration should return, as far as possible, the status quo ante in the Southern states' governments (with the exception of slavery).[43]

Lee told the Committee, "...every one with whom I associate expresses kind feelings towards the freedmen. They wish to see them get on in the world, and particularly to take up some occupation for a living, and to turn their hands to some work." Lee also expressed his "willingness that blacks should be educated, and ... that it would be better for the blacks and for the whites." Lee forthrightly opposed allowing blacks to vote: "My own opinion is that, at this time, they [black Southerners] cannot vote intelligently, and that giving them the [vote] would lead to a great deal of demagogism, and lead to embarrassments in various ways."[44] Lee also recommended the deportation of African Americans from Virginia and even mentioned that Virginians would give aid in the deportation. "I think it would be better for Virginia if she could get rid of them [African Americans]. ... I think that everyone there would be willing to aid it."[45][46]

In an interview in May 1866, Lee said, "The Radical party are likely to do a great deal of harm, for we wish now for good feeling to grow up between North and South, and the President, Mr. Johnson, has been doing much to strengthen the feeling in favor of the Union among us. The relations between the Negroes and the whites were friendly formerly, and would remain so if legislation be not passed in favor of the blacks, in a way that will only do them harm."[47]

Jefferson Davis, Lee, and Stonewall Jackson
at Stone Mountain

In 1868, Lee's ally Alexander H. H. Stuart drafted a public letter of endorsement for the Democratic Party's presidential campaign, in which Horatio Seymour ran against Lee's old foe Republican Ulysses S. Grant. Lee signed it along with thirty-one other ex-Confederates. The Democratic campaign, eager to publicize the endorsement, published the statement widely in newspapers.[48] Their letter claimed paternalistic concern for the welfare of freed Southern blacks, stating that "The idea that the Southern people are hostile to the negroes and would oppress them, if it were in their power to do so, is entirely unfounded. They have grown up in our midst, and we have been accustomed from childhood to look upon them with kindness."[49] However, it also called for the restoration of white political rule, arguing that "It is true that the people of the South, in common with a large majority of the people of the North and West, are, for obvious reasons, inflexibly opposed to any system of laws that would place the political power of the country in the hands of the negro race. But this opposition springs from no feeling of enmity, but from a deep-seated conviction that, at present, the negroes have neither the intelligence nor the other qualifications which are necessary to make them safe depositories of political power."[50]

In his public statements and private correspondence, however, Lee argued that a tone of reconciliation and patience would further the interests of white Southerners better than hotheaded antagonism to federal authority or the use of violence. Lee repeatedly expelled white students from Washington College for violent attacks on local black men, and publicly urged obedience to the authorities and respect for law and order.[51] In 1869-70 he was a leader in successful efforts to establish state-funded schools for blacks.[52] He privately chastised fellow ex-Confederates such as Jefferson Davis and Jubal Early for their frequent, angry responses to perceived Northern insults, writing in private to them as he had written to a magazine editor in 1865, that "It should be the object of all to avoid controversy, to allay passion, give full scope to reason and to every kindly feeling. By doing this and encouraging our citizens to engage in the duties of life with all their heart and mind, with a determination not to be turned aside by thoughts of the past and fears of the future, our country will not only be restored in material prosperity, but will be advanced in science, in virtue and in religion."[53]

Lee attended a meeting of ex-Confederates in 1870, during which he expressed regrets about his surrender at Appomattox Court House, given the effects of Republican Reconstruction policy on the South. Speaking to former Confederate Governor of Texas Fletcher Stockdale, he said:

Governor, if I had foreseen the use those people [Yankees] designed to make of their victory, there would have been no surrender at Appomattox Courthouse; no sir, not by me. Had I foreseen these results of subjugation, I would have preferred to die at Appomattox with my brave men, my sword in my right hand.[54]

Illness and death

So-called "Recumbent Statue" of Robert E. Lee in Lee Chapel in Lexington, Virginia, of Lee asleep on the battlefield, sculpted by Edward Valentine. It is often mistakenly thought to be a tomb or sarcophagus, but Lee is actually buried elsewhere in the chapel.

On September 28, 1870, Lee suffered a stroke that left him without the ability to speak. Lee died from the effects of pneumonia shortly after 9 a.m. on October 12, 1870, in Lexington, Virginia. He was buried underneath Lee Chapel at Washington and Lee University, where his body remains today. According to J. William Jones' Personal Reminiscences, Anecdotes, and Letters of Gen. Robert E. Lee, his last words, on the day of his death, were "Tell Hill he must come up. Strike the tent", but this is debatable because of conflicting accounts. Since Lee's stroke resulted in aphasia, last words may have been impossible. Lee was treated homeopathically for this illness.[55]

Legacy

Among Southerners, Lee came to be even more revered after his surrender than he had been during the war (when Stonewall Jackson had been the great Confederate hero, particularly after Jackson's death at Chancellorsville). Admirers pointed to his character and devotion to duty, not to mention his brilliant tactical successes in battle after battle against a stronger foe. Military historians continue to pay attention to his battlefield tactics and maneuvering, though many think he should have designed better strategic plans for the Confederacy. However, it should be noted that he was not given full direction of the Southern war effort until very late in the conflict. His reputation continued to build and by 1900 his followers had spread into the North, signaling a national apotheosis.[56] Today among the devotees of "The Lost Cause", General Lee is referred to as "The Marble Man."

He was a foe without hate; a friend without treachery; a soldier without cruelty; a victor without oppression, and a victim without murmuring. He was a public officer without vices; a private citizen without wrong; a neighbour without reproach; a Christian without hypocrisy, and a man without guile. He was a Caesar, without his ambition; Frederick, without his tyranny; Napoleon, without his selfishness, and Washington, without his reward.

— Benjamin Harvey Hill of Georgia
referring to Robert Edward Lee during an address before the Southern Historical Society in Atlanta, Georgia on February 18, 1874[57]

Civil War-era letters

On September 29, 2007, General Lee's three Civil War-era letters were sold for $61,000 at auction by Thomas Willcox, much less than the record of $630,000 for a Lee item in 2002. The auction included more than 400 documents of Lee's from the estate of the parents of Willcox that had been in the family for generations. South Carolina sued to stop the sale on the grounds that the letters were official documents and therefore property of the state, but the court ruled in favor of Willcox.[58]

Citizenship restored

Oath of amnesty submitted by Robert E. Lee in 1865.

On May 29, 1865, President Andrew Johnson issued a Proclamation of Amnesty and Pardon to persons who had participated in the rebellion against the United States. There were fourteen excepted classes, though, and members of those classes had to make special application to the President. Lee sent an application to Grant and wrote to President Johnson on June 13, 1865:

Being excluded from the provisions of amnesty & pardon contained in the proclamation of the 29th Ulto; I hereby apply for the benefits, & full restoration of all rights & privileges extended to those included in its terms. I graduated at the Mil. Academy at West Point in June 1829. Resigned from the U.S. Army April '61. Was a General in the Confederate Army, & included in the surrender of the Army of N. Virginia 9 April '65.[59]

Lee's lost oath

On October 2, 1865, the same day that Lee was inaugurated as president of Washington College in Lexington, Virginia, he signed his Amnesty Oath, thereby complying fully with the provision of Johnson's proclamation. Lee was not pardoned, nor was his citizenship restored. The fact that he had submitted an amnesty oath at all was soon lost to history.[59]

Apparently Secretary of State William H. Seward had given Lee's application to a friend as a souvenir, and the State Department had pigeonholed the oath. More than a hundred years later, in 1970, an archivist at the National Archives discovered Lee's Amnesty Oath among State Department records (reported in Prologue, Winter 1970).[59] For 110 years Lee remained without a country, the Confederacy had dissolved and Lee's United States application and oath were lost and disregarded. It is very probable that someone at the State Department did not want Robert E. Lee to regain citizenship while Lee was alive.[42] It can only be speculated if Secretary of State Seward was involved in the matter of Lee's citizenship reinstatement.

U.S. Congress resolution

On January 30, 1975, Senate Joint Resolution 23, A joint resolution to restore posthumously full rights of citizenship to General R. E. Lee was introduced into the Senate by Senator Harry F. Byrd, Jr. VA. The resolution was to restore the U.S. citizenship to Robert E. Lee effective June 13, 1865. This resolution was the result of a 5 year campaign to posthumously restore Robert E. Lee's U.S. citizenship.[60][60][61]

Congressional summary:

  • 1/30/1975 S. J. Res. 23 introduced.
  • 3/19/1975 Reported to Senate from the Committee on the Judiciary, S. Rept. 94-44.
  • 4/10/1975 Passed/agreed to in Senate: Measure passed Senate.
  • 6/24/1975 Reported to House from the Committee on the Judiciary, H. Rept. 94-324.
  • 7/22/1975 Passed/agreed to in House: Measure passed House, roll call #415 Vote: 407 Yea 10 Nay
  • 7/22/1975 Cleared for White House

Signed by President Ford

On July 24, 1975, after passing the Senate and House of Representatives the resolution was presented to President Gerald Ford. The resolution, S.J. Res. 23, was signed on August 5, 1975 by the President and became Public Law 94-67 (89 Stat. 380). The signing took place at a ceremony at Arlington House, Arlington, Virginia. The house was formerly known as the Custis-Lee Mansion, and was the home of General Lee. The ceremony was attended by a dozen of Lee's descendants including Robert E. Lee V, Robert E. Lee's great-great-grandson. Also attending were: Governor Godwin, Senator Byrd, Congressman Butler, Congressman Harris, Congressman Satterfield, Congressman Downing, and Congressman Daniel.[60][61][62]

President summary:

  • 7/24/1975 Measure presented to President.
  • 8/5/1975 Signed by President.
  • 8/5/1975 Public law 94-67

Before signing President Ford spoke at 2:12 p.m. at the signing ceremony:

I am very pleased to sign Senate Joint Resolution 23, restoring posthumously the long overdue, full rights of citizenship to General Robert E. Lee. This legislation corrects a 110-year oversight of American history. It is significant that it is signed at this place.

Lee's dedication to his native State of Virginia chartered his course for the bitter Civil War years, causing him to reluctantly resign from a distinguished career in the United States Army and to serve as General of the Army of Northern Virginia. He, thus, forfeited his rights to U.S. citizenship.

Once the war was over, he firmly felt the wounds of the North and South must be bound up. He sought to show by example that the citizens of the South must dedicate their efforts to rebuilding that region of the country as a strong and vital part of the American Union.

In 1865, Robert E. Lee wrote to a former Confederate soldier concerning his signing the Oath of Allegiance, and I quote: "This war, being at an end, the Southern States having laid down their arms, and the questions at issue between them and the Northern States having been decided, I believe it to be the duty of everyone to unite in the restoration of the country and the reestablishment of peace and harmony....

As a soldier, General Lee left his mark on military strategy. As a man, he stood as the symbol of valor and of duty. As an educator, he appealed to reason and learning to achieve understanding and to build a stronger nation. The course he chose after the war became a symbol to all those who had marched with him in the bitter years towards Appomattox.

General Lee's character has been an example to succeeding generations, making the restoration of his citizenship an event in which every American can take pride.

In approving this Joint Resolution, the Congress removed the legal obstacle to citizenship which resulted from General Lee's Civil War service. Although more than a century late, I am delighted to sign this resolution and to complete the full restoration of General Lee's citizenship.

Monuments, memorials and commemorations

Monuments

  • Since it was built in 1884, the most prominent monument in New Orleans has been a 60-foot (18 m)-tall monument to General Lee. A sixteen and a half foot statue of Lee stands tall upon a towering column of white marble in the middle of Lee Circle. The statue of Lee, which weighs more than 7,000 pounds, faces the North. Lee Circle is situated along New Orleans' famous St. Charles Avenue. The New Orleans streetcars roll past Lee Circle and New Orleans' best Mardi Gras parades go around Lee Circle (the spot is so popular that bleachers are set up annually around the perimeter for Mardi Gras). Around the corner from Lee Circle is New Orleans' Confederate Museum, which contains the second largest collection of Confederate memorabilia in the world.[63] In a tribute to Lee Circle (which had formerly been known as Tivoli Circle), former Confederate soldier George Washington Cable wrote:
"In Tivoli Circle, New Orleans, from the centre and apex of its green flowery mound, an immense column of pure white marble rises in the ... majesty of Grecian proportions high up above the city's house-tops into the dazzling sunshine ... On its dizzy top stands the bronze figure of one of the worlds greatest captains. He is alone. Not one of his mighty lieutenants stand behind, beside or below him. His arms are folded on that breast that never knew fear, and his calm, dauntless gaze meets the morning sun as it rises, like the new prosperity of the land he loved and serve so masterly, above the far distant battle fields where so many thousands of his gray veterans lie in the sleep of fallen heroes." (Silent South, 1885, The Century Illustrated Monthly Magazine)
Unveiling of the Equestrian Statue of Robert E. Lee, May 29, 1890. Richmond, Virginia.
  • A large equestrian statue of Lee by French sculptor Jean Antonin Mercié is the centerpiece of Richmond, Virginia's famous Monument Avenue, which boasts four other statues to famous Confederates. This monument to Lee was unveiled on May 29, 1890. Over 100,000 people attended this dedication.
  • Robert E. Lee is shown mounted on Traveller in Gettysburg National Park on top of the Virginia Monument
  • A large double equestrian statue of Lee and Jackson in Baltimore's Wyman Park, directly across from the Baltimore Museum of Art, was dedicated in 1948. Designed by Laura Gardin Fraser, Robert E. Lee is depicted astride his horse Traveller next to Stonewall Jackson who is mounted on "Little Sorrel." Architect John Russell Pope created the base, which was dedicated on the anniversary of the eve of the Battle of Chancellorsville.

Holidays

The birthday of Robert E. Lee is celebrated or commemorated in:

  • The state of Virginia as part of Lee-Jackson Day, which was separated from the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday there in 2001. The King holiday falls on the third Monday in January while the Lee-Jackson Day holiday is celebrated on the Friday preceding it.
  • The state of Texas celebrates, as part of Confederate Heroes Day on January 19, Lee's actual birthday.
  • The states of Alabama, Arkansas, and Mississippi on the third Monday in January, along with Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • The state of Georgia on the day after Thanksgiving.
  • The state of Florida, as a legal holiday and public holiday, on January 19.[64]

Geographic features

Schools and universities

  • Robert E. Lee Academy, Bishopville, South Carolina
  • Several high schools. See Robert E. Lee High School.
    • Lee High School, Houston, Texas
    • Lee-Davis High School, Mechanicsville, Virginia
    • Southern Lee High School, Sanford, North Carolina
    • Lee County High School, Sanford, North Carolina
    • Robert E. Lee High School, Baytown, Texas
    • Upson-Lee High School, Thomaston, Georgia
    • Washington-Lee High School, Arlington, Virginia
  • Robert E. Lee Junior High School, Monroe, Louisiana
  • Robert E. Lee Junior High School, San Angelo, Texas
  • Robert E. Lee Middle School, Orlando, Florida

Memorials

In other media

Robert E. Lee served as a main character in the Shaara novels Gods and Generals and The Killer Angels, as well as in their film adaptions Gods and Generals and Gettysburg, played by his descendent Robert Duvall in Gods and Generals and Martin Sheen in Gettysburg.

Notes

  1. ^ Moses, Grace McLean. The Welsh Lineage of John Lewis (1592-1657), Emigrant to Gloucester, Virginia. Baltimore, MD, USA: Genealogical Publishing Co., 2002
  2. ^ Davis, Pohanka & Troiani 1997, p. 135
  3. ^ Lee 1983, pp. 338–339
  4. ^ Lee 1983, p. 343
  5. ^ "The Education of a Cadet". University of Chicago. http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Gazetteer/People/Robert_E_Lee/FREREL/1/4*.html. Retrieved 2008-05-20. 
  6. ^ "William Fitzhugh". Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park, National Park Service. http://www.nps.gov/frsp/fitzchm.htm. Retrieved 2009-07-13. 
  7. ^ "A Day Under a Log Contributes to Victory". University of Chicago. http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Gazetteer/People/Robert_E_Lee/FREREL/1/15*.html#p248. Retrieved 2008-05-20. 
  8. ^ Lee and Grant | Before the War | Virginia Historical Society
  9. ^ "Dr. Eliza Clark Hughes". Linda Pages. http://www.lindapages.com/nurses/nurses-drhughes.htm. Retrieved 2008-05-20. 
  10. ^ a b "Slavery at Arlington". July 20, 2007. http://www.nps.gov/arho/historyculture/slavery.htm. Retrieved 2009-09-19. 
  11. ^ Freeman 1934, p. 381
  12. ^ a b c Fellman 2000, p. 65
  13. ^ a b c Blassingame 1977, pp. 467–468
  14. ^ Freeman 1934, p. 393
  15. ^ Freeman 1934, pp. 390–393
  16. ^ Freeman 1934, pp. 390–392
  17. ^ Fellman 2000, p. 67
  18. ^ Freeman 1934, p. 476
  19. ^ Rad Geek People’s Daily 2005-01-03 – Robert E. Lee owned slaves and defended slavery
  20. ^ a b Will of George Washington Parke Custis
  21. ^ Hughes & Liddell 1997, pp. 192–193
  22. ^ a b Freeman 1934, p. 372
  23. ^ Freeman 1934, pp. 394–395
  24. ^ Col. Robert E. Lee's Report Concerning the Attack at Harper's Ferry
  25. ^ Freeman, Douglas Southall (1934). "XXV". R. E. Lee: A Biography. New York and London: Charles Scribner's Sons. http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Gazetteer/People/Robert_E_Lee/FREREL/1/25*.html. 
  26. ^ Freeman 1934, p. 425
  27. ^ Fellman 2000, §6
  28. ^ Foot Soldier: The Rebels. Prod. A&E Television Network. Karn, Richard. The History Channel. 1998. DVD. A&E Television Networks, 2008.
  29. ^ Freeman 1934, p. 602
  30. ^ Robert E. Lee's Order No. 59
  31. ^ Fremantle's Diary, p. 135
  32. ^ Nolan 1991, pp. 21–22
  33. ^ Nolan 1991, p. 24
  34. ^ Civil War Casualties Battle Statistics and Commanders
  35. ^ Battle of Cheat Mountain
  36. ^ Gettysburg Battle American Civil War July 1863
  37. ^ Appomattox Courthouse Robert E Lee Surrenders to Ulysses S Grant
  38. ^ Fellman 2000, p. 229
  39. ^ United States v. Lee, 106 U.S. 196 .
  40. ^ Kaufman v. Lee, 106 U.S. 196 .
  41. ^ "Historical Information". Arlington National Cemetery. http://www.arlingtoncemetery.org/historical_information/arlington_house.html. Retrieved 2008-05-20. 
  42. ^ a b Pardon of Robert E. Lee
  43. ^ Fellman 2000, p. 265
  44. ^ Fellman 2000, pp. 267–268
  45. ^ Robert E. Lee, Joint Committee on Reconstruction in Washington, D.C., February 17, 1866
  46. ^ Richmond IMC: The Real Robert E. Lee
  47. ^ Freeman 1934, p. 301
  48. ^ Freeman 1934, pp. 375–377
  49. ^ Freeman 1934, pp. 375–376
  50. ^ Freeman 1934, p. 376
  51. ^ Fellman 2000, pp. 258–263
  52. ^ Pearson, Charles Chilton (1917). "The Readjuster Movement in Virginia". American Political Science Review (Yale University Press): 60. 
  53. ^ Fellman 2000, p. 275–277
  54. ^ Adams, Charles. "The High Ground". When in the Course of Human Events: Arguing the Case for Southern Secession. 
  55. ^ "The Lexington Physicians of General Robert E. Lee". Medscape. http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/511731_5. Retrieved 2008-05-20. 
  56. ^ Weigley, Russell F. (February 2000). "Lee, Robert E.". American National Biography. http://www.anb.org/articles/04/04-00622.html. Retrieved 2008-05-20. 
  57. ^ The politically incorrect guide to ... - Google Books
  58. ^ "General Lee letters sold at auction". US Auction Info. 2007-09-30. http://www.usauction.info/2007/09/30/general-lee-letters-sold-at-auction/. Retrieved 2008-04-01. 
  59. ^ a b c General Robert E. Lee's Parole and Citizenship
  60. ^ a b c "Citizenship For R. E. Lee". The Gettysburg Times. August 7, 1975. 
    NOTE: The 10 objecting Congressmen against Lee's citizenship resolution argued it should include amnesty for Vietham war draft dodgers (subsequently granted in 1977).
  61. ^ a b Search Results - THOMAS (Library of Congress)
  62. ^ Remarks Upon Signing a Bill Restoring Rights of Citizenship to General Robert E. Lee, August 5, 1975
  63. ^ "History of Confederate Memorial Hall". Confederate Memorial Hall. http://www.confederatemuseum.com. Retrieved 2008-05-20. 
  64. ^ "The 2007 Florida Statutes". Florida Legislature. http://www.leg.state.fl.us/Statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&Search_String=&URL=Ch0683/SEC01.HTM&Title=-%3E2006-%3ECh0683-%3ESection%2001#0683.01. Retrieved 2008-05-20. 

References

Further reading

Biographical

  • Blount, Roy, Jr. Robert E. Lee Penguin Putnam, 2003. 210 pp., short popular biography
  • Carmichael, Peter S., ed. Audacity Personified: The Generalship of Robert E. Lee Louisiana State University Press, 2004.
  • Connelly, Thomas L., "The Image and the General: Robert E. Lee in American Historiography." Civil War History 19 (March 1973): 50-64.
  • Connelly, Thomas L., The Marble Man. Robert E. Lee and His Image in American Society. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1977.
  • Connelly, Thomas L., "Robert E. Lee and the Western Confederacy: A Criticism of Lee's Strategic Ability." Civil War History 15 (June 1969): 116-32
  • Cooke, John E., "A Life of General Robert E. Lee" Kessinger Publishing, 2004.
  • Dowdey, Clifford. Lee 1965.
  • Fellman, Michael (2000), The Making of Robert E. Lee. New York: Random House (ISBN 0-679-45650-3).
  • Fishwick, Marshall W. Lee after the War 1963.
  • Flood, Charles Bracelen. Lee — The Last Years 1981.
  • Gary W. Gallagher; Lee the Soldier. University of Nebraska Press, 1996
  • Gary W. Gallagher; Lee & His Army in Confederate History. University of North Carolina Press, 2001
  • McCaslin, Richard B. Lee in the Shadow of Washington. Louisiana State University Press, 2001.
  • Pryor, Elizabeth Brown; Reading the Man: A Portrait of Robert E. Lee Through His Private Letters. New York: Viking, 2007.
  • Reid, Brian Holden. Robert E. Lee: Icon for a Nation, London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2005.
  • Thomas, Emory Robert E. Lee W.W. Norton & Co., 1995 (ISBN 0-393-03730-4) full-scale biography

Military campaign sources

  • Bonekemper, III, Edward H. How Robert E. Lee Lost the Civil War. Sergeant Kirkland's Press, Fredericksburg, Virginia. 1997. ISBN 1-887901-15-9
  • Brown, Kent Masterson. Retreat from Gettysburg: Lee, Logistics, and the Pennsylvania Campaign. University of North Carolina Press, 2005.
  • Cagney, James "Animations of the Campaigns of Robert E. Lee" Click Here for the Animations (2008)
  • Cavanaugh, Michael A., and William Marvel, The Petersburg Campaign: The Battle of the Crater: "The Horrid Pit", June 25-August 6, 1864 (1989)
  • Davis, William C. Death in the Trenches: Grant at Petersburg (1986).
  • Dowdey, Clifford. The Seven Days 1964.
  • Freeman, Douglas S., Lee's Lieutenants: A Study in Command (3 volumes), Scribners, 1946, ISBN 0-684-85979-3.
  • Fuller, Maj. Gen. J. F. C., Grant and Lee, A Study in Personality and Generalship, Indiana University Press, 1957, ISBN 0-253-13400-5.
  • Gott, Kendall D., Where the South Lost the War: An Analysis of the Fort Henry-Fort Donelson Campaign, February 1862, Stackpole Books, 2003, ISBN 0-8117-0049-6.
  • Grimsley, Mark, And Keep Moving On: The Virginia Campaign, May-June 1864 University of Nebraska Press, 2002.
  • Harsh, Joseph L. Taken at the Flood: Robert E. Lee and Confederate Strategy in the Maryland Campaign of 1862 Kent State University Press, 1999
  • Johnson, R. U., and Buel, C. C., eds., Battles and Leaders of the Civil War. 4 vols. New York, 1887–88; essays by leading generals of both sides; online edition
  • McWhiney, Grady, Battle in the Wilderness: Grant Meets Lee (1995)
  • Maney, R. Wayne, Marching to Cold Harbor. Victory and Failure, 1864 (1994).
  • Marvel, William. Lee's Last Retreat: The Flight to Appomattox. University of North Carolina Press, 2002.
  • Matter, William D., If It Takes All Summer: The Battle of Spotsylvania (1988)
  • Rhea, Gordon C., The Battle of the Wilderness May 5–6, 1864, Louisiana State University Press, 1994, ISBN 0-8071-1873-7.
  • Rhea, Gordon C., The Battles for Spotsylvania Court House and the Road to Yellow Tavern May 7–12, 1864, Louisiana State University Press, 1997, ISBN 0-8071-2136-3.
  • Rhea, Gordon C., To the North Anna River: Grant and Lee, May 13–25, 1864, Louisiana State University Press, 2000, ISBN 0-8071-2535-0.
  • Rhea, Gordon C., Cold Harbor: Grant and Lee, May 26 – June 3, 1864, Louisiana State University Press, 2002, ISBN 0-8071-2803-1.
  • Miller, J. Michael, The North Anna Campaign: "Even to Hell Itself", May 21–26, 1864 (1989).
  • Steere, Edward, The Wilderness Campaign (1960)

Primary sources

  • Dowdey, Clifford. and Louis H. Manarin, eds. The Wartime Papers of R. E. Lee. Boston: Little, Brown, 1961.
  • Freeman, Douglas Southall. ed. Unpublished Letters of General Robert E. Lee, C.S.A., to Jefferson Davis and the War Department of the Confederate States of America, 1862-65. Rev. ed., with foreword by Grady McWhiney. 1957.
  • Johnson, R. U., and Buel, C. C., eds., Battles and Leaders of the Civil War. 4 vols. New York, 1887–88; essays by leading generals of both sides; online edition
  • Missouri History Museum. Robert E. Lee Collection
  • Taylor, Walter H. Four Years with General Lee Reprint. 1962.
  • Taylor, Walter H. General Lee — His Campaigns in Virginia, 1861-1865. Reprint. 1975

External links

Primary sources

Biographies

Monuments and memorials

Sister projects

Military offices
Preceded by
Henry Brewerton
Superintendent of the United States Military Academy
1852–1855
Succeeded by
John Gross Barnard
Preceded by
Gen. Joseph E. Johnston
Commander, Army of Northern Virginia
1862–1865
End of Confederate States
Preceded by
None, position was created with Lee's appointment
General-in-Chief of the Confederate States Army
January 31, 1865 – April 9, 1865


Quotes

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

The march of Providence is so slow, and our desires so impatient; the work of progress is so immense and our means of aiding it so feeble; the life of humanity is so long, that of the individual so brief, that we often see only the ebb of the advancing wave and are thus discouraged. It is history that teaches us to hope.

Robert Edward Lee (19 January 180712 October 1870) was a career army officer and the most successful general of the Confederate forces during the American Civil War. He eventually commanded all Confederate armies as general-in-chief.

Sourced

Duty is the sublimest word in our language. Do your duty in all things. You cannot do more. You should never wish to do less.
The forbearing use of power does not only form a touchstone, but the manner in which an individual enjoys certain advantages over others is a test of a true gentleman.
  • Duty is the sublimest word in our language. Do your duty in all things. You cannot do more. You should never wish to do less.
    • Letter to his son, G. W. Custis Lee (5 April 1852); published in The New York Sun (26 November 1864); also inscribed beneath his bust in the Hall of Fame on the former New York University campus, New York City.
  • In this enlightened age, there are few I believe, but what will acknowledge, that slavery as an institution, is a moral & political evil in any Country. It is useless to expatiate on its disadvantages. I think it however a greater evil to the white man than to the black race, & while my feelings are strongly enlisted in behalf of the latter, my sympathies are more strong for the former. The blacks are immeasurably better off here than in Africa, morally, socially & physically. The painful discipline they are undergoing, is necessary for their instruction as a race, & I hope will prepare & lead them to better things. How long their subjugation may be necessary is known & ordered by a wise Merciful Providence.
  • I can anticipate no greater calamity for the country than a dissolution of the Union. It would be an accumulation of all the evils we complain of, and I am willing to sacrifice everything but honour for its preservation. I hope, therefore, that all constitutional means will be exhausted before there is a resort to force. Secession is nothing but revolution. The framers of our Constitution never exhausted so much labour, wisdom, and forbearance in its formation, and surrounded it with so many guards and securities, if it was intended to be broken by every member of the Confederacy at will. It is intended for 'perpetual Union,' so expressed in the preamble, and for the establishment of a government, not a compact, which can only be dissolved by revolution, or the consent of all the people in convention assembled. It is idle to talk of secession: anarchy would have been established, and not a government, by Washington, Hamilton, Jefferson, Madison, and all the other patriots of the Revolution. ... Still, a Union that can only be maintained by swords and bayonets, and in which strife and civil war are to take the place of brotherly love and kindness, has no charm for me. I shall mourn for my country and for the welfare and progress of mankind. If the Union is dissolved and the Government disrupted, I shall return to my native State and share the miseries of my people, and, save in defense will draw my sword on none.
  • Since my interview with you on the 18th I have felt that I ought not longer retain my commission in the Army ... It would have been presented at once, but for the struggle it has cost me to separate myself from a service to which I have devoted all the best years of my life, and all the ability I possessed ... I shall carry with me to the grave the most grateful recollections of your kind consideration and your name and fame will always be dear to me. Save for defense of my native state, I never desire again to draw my sword.
    • Letter to General Scott (20 April 1861); as quoted in Personal Reminiscences, Anecdotes, and Letters of Gen. Robert E. Lee (1875) by John William Jones, p. 139, after turning down an offer by Abraham Lincoln of supreme command of the U. S. Army.
  • It is well that war is so terrible, otherwise we should grow too fond of it.
  • What a cruel thing is war; to separate and destroy families and friends, and mar the purest joys and happiness God has granted us in this world; to fill our hearts with hatred instead of love for our neighbours, and to devastate the fair face of this beautiful world! I pray that, on this day when only peace and good-will are preached to mankind, better thoughts may fill the hearts of our enemies and turn them to peace. ... My heart bleeds at the death of every one of our gallant men.
    • Letter to his wife on Christmas Day, two weeks after the Battle of Fredericksburg (25 December 1862)
  • I have been up to see the Congress and they do not seem to be able to do anything except to eat peanuts and chew tobacco, while my army is starving.
    • Remark, March 1865, to his son, G. W. Custis Lee, as quoted in South Atlantic Quarterly [Durham, North Carolina] (July 1927)
  • The questions which for years were in dispute between the State and General Government, and which unhappily were not decided by the dictates of reason, but referred to the decision of war, having been decided against us, it is the part of wisdom to acquiesce in the result, and of candor to recognize the fact.
    • Letter to former Virginia governor John Letcher (28 August 1865), as quoted in Personal Reminiscences, Anecdotes, and Letters of Gen. Robert E. Lee (1875) by John William Jones, p. 203
  • The interests of the State are therefore the same as those of the United States. Its prosperity will rise or fall with the welfare of the country. The duty of its citizens, then, appears to me too plain to admit of doubt. All should unite in honest efforts to obliterate the effects of war, and to restore the blessings of peace. They should remain, if possible, in the country; promote harmony and good feeling; qualify themselves to vote; and elect to the State and general Legislatures wise and patriotic men, who will devote their abilities to the interests of the country, and the healing of all dissensions. I have invariably recommended this course since the cessation of hostilities, and have endeavored to practice it myself.
    • Letter to former Virginia governor John Letcher (28 August 1865), as quoted in Personal Reminiscences, Anecdotes, and Letters of Gen. Robert E. Lee (1875) by John William Jones, p. 203
  • True patriotism sometimes requires of men to act exactly contrary, at one period, to that which it does at another, and the motive which impels them — the desire to do right — is precisely the same.
  • My experience through life has convinced me that, while moderation and temperance in all things are commendable and beneficial, abstinence from spiritous liquors is the best safeguard of morals and health.
    • Letter to a "Friends of Temperance" society (9 December 1869); as quoted in Personal Reminiscences, Anecdotes, and Letters of Gen. Robert E. Lee (1875) by John William Jones, p. 170
  • So far from engaging in a war to perpetuate slavery, I am rejoiced that slavery is abolished. I believe it will be greatly for the interests of the South. So fully am I satisfied of this, as regards Virginia especially, that I would cheerfully have lost all I have lost by the war, and have suffered all I have suffered, to have this object attained.
    • Statement to John Leyburn (1 May 1870), as quoted in R. E. Lee : A Biography (1934) by Douglas Southall Freeman
  • Governor, if I had foreseen the use those people designed to make of their victory, there would have been no surrender at Appomattox Courthouse; no sir, not by me. Had I foreseen these results of subjugation, I would have preferred to die at Appomattox with my brave men, my sword in my right hand.
    • To Governor Fletcher S. Stockdale (September 1870), as quoted in The Life and Letters of Robert Lewis Dabney, pp. 497-500
  • My experience of men has neither disposed me to think worse of them, or indisposed me to serve them; nor in spite of failures, which I lament, of errors which I now see and acknowledge; or of the present aspect of affairs; do I despair of the future.
    The truth is this: The march of Providence is so slow, and our desires so impatient; the work of progress is so immense and our means of aiding it so feeble; the life of humanity is so long, that of the individual so brief, that we often see only the ebb of the advancing wave and are thus discouraged. It is history that teaches us to hope.
    • Letter to Lt. Col. Charles Marshall (September 1870)
  • We must forgive our enemies. I can truly say that not a day has passed since the war began that I have not prayed for them.
    • As quoted in A Life of General Robert E. Lee (1871) by Joan Esten Cooke.
  • I cannot consent to place the control of others one who cannot control himself.
    • As quoted in Personal Reminiscences, Anecdotes, and Letters of Gen. Robert E. Lee (1875) by John William Jones, p. 170
A true man of honor feels humbled himself when he cannot help humbling others.
  • Madam, don't bring up your sons to detest the United States Government. Recollect that we form one country now. Abandon all these local animosities, and make your sons Americans.
    • Advice to a woman who expressed her hatred of the North, as quoted in The Life and Campaigns of General Lee (1875) by Edward Lee Childe, p. 331
  • Sir, if you ever presume again to speak disrespectfully of General Grant in my presence, either you or I will sever his connection with this university.
    • After one of the faculty at Washington College in Virginia (now Washington & Lee University) had spoken insultingly of Ulysses S. Grant, as quoted in Lee the American (1912) by Gamaliel Bradford, p. 226
  • The forbearing use of power does not only form a touchstone, but the manner in which an individual enjoys certain advantages over others is a test of a true gentleman.
    The power which the strong have over the weak, the employer over the employed, the educated over the unlettered, the experienced over the confiding, even the clever over the silly — the forbearing or inoffensive use of all this power or authority, or a total abstinence from it when the case admits it, will show the gentleman in a plain light.
    The gentleman does not needlessly and unnecessarily remind an offender of a wrong he may have committed against him. He cannot only forgive, he can forget; and he strives for that nobleness of self and mildness of character which impart sufficient strength to let the past be but the past. A true man of honor feels humbled himself when he cannot help humbling others.
    • "Definition of a Gentleman", a memorandum found in his papers after his death, as quoted in Lee the American (1912) by Gamaliel Bradford, p. 233
  • Obedience to lawful authority is the foundation of manly character.
    • As quoted in General Robert E. Lee After Appomattox (1922) by Franklin Lafayette Riley, p. 18
  • After it is all over, as stupid a fellow as I am can see that mistakes were made. I notice, however, that my mistakes are never told me until it is too late.
    • As quoted in May I Quote You General Lee? (2002) by Randall Bedwell, p. 63.
The education of a man is never completed until he dies.
  • Tell Hill he must come up ... Strike the tent.
    • Last words (1870-10-12) - There is some suggestion that Lee's autobiographer, Douglas Southall Freeman embellished Lee's final moments. Lee probably suffered a heart attack before dying several hours later and his last words cannot be confirmed.
  • You must be frank with the world; frankness is the child of honesty and courage. Say just what you mean to do on every occasion, and take it for granted you mean to do right...Never do anything wrong to make a friend or keep one; the man who requires you to do so, is dearly purchased at a sacrifice. Deal kindly, but firmly with all your classmates; you will find it the policy which wears best. Above all do not appear to others what you are not.
    • As quoted in Truman by David McCullough (1992), p. 44
  • The education of a man is never completed until he dies.
    • As quoted in Peter's Quotations : Ideas for Our Time (1977) by Laurence J. Peter, p. 175
  • Teach him he must deny himself.
    • Lee to a mother who asked him to bless her son, as quoted in Charles Roland, Reflections on Lee: A Historian's Assessment (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2003), p. 117.

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Simple English

File:Robert Edward
General Robert E. Lee

Robert Edward Lee was a Confederate States of America army general. He led the Army of Northern Virginia during the American Civil War, and is still considered one of America's greatest generals. He started out as a engineer but then moved up the ranks. He was born on January 19, 1807.


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