General robert edward lee 1807-1870 (see main description for short history)

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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 (ne carter) lee. His parents were members of the virginia gentry class and true, tuckahoes. 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, 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.” lee’s father died when lee was eleven years old, leaving the family deeply in debt. When lee was three 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 obtained a classical education along the lines of quadrivium. 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. He was commissioned as a brevet second lieutenant in the corps of engineers. Lee served for just over seventeen 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. While he was stationed at fort monroe, he married mary anna randolph custis (18081873)lee distinguished himself in the mexican-american war (18461848). 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.[6] 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.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.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.[21] 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 president jefferson davis, former u.S. Secretary of war.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.[22] 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. 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.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.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.” 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, “this is all my fault.” 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 president 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 three-day battle in southern pennsylvania. 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. 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.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.[23] 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. 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. (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. On march 3, 1883, the congress purchased the property from lee for $150,000. 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, and it is that every student is 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.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