Robert E. Lee
of the Confederate States
LEE, Robert Edward, soldier, born in Stratford, Westmoreland County, Virginia, 19 Jan., 1807; died in Lexington, Virginia, 12 Oct., 1870. He was the son of the Revolutionary general Henry Lee (q. v.), known as " Light-Horse Harry," was graduated from the U. S. military academy at West Point in 1829, ranking second in a class of forty-six, and was commissioned as a 2d lieutenant in the engineers.
In 1855 he was appointed lieutenant-colonel of the 2d regiment of cavalry, and assigned to duty on the Texan frontier, where he remained until near the beginning of the civil war, with the exception of an interval when, in 1859, he was ordered to Washington and placed in command of the force that was sent against John Brown at Harper's Ferry.
In President Lincoln's inaugural address of March 4th, he promised not to interfere with slavery in the states where it existed but condemned secession, stating that "the central idea of secession is the essence of anarchy." Virginians wondered what fate would befall the Deep South states, and what the implications might be of a strong Federal government. The debates continued until April 15th, when Richmond newspapers reported Lincoln's call for 75,000 troops to suppress the uprising. As a member of the Union, Virginia would be required to send 2,340 soldiers. This proved to be the breaking point for delegates, and the convention chose to stand with other southerners and vote for secession.
On 20 April, 1861, three days after the Virginia convention adopted an ordinance of secession, he resigned his commission, in obedience to his conscientious conviction that he was bound by the act of his state. His only authenticated expression of opinion and sentiment on the subject of secession is found in the following passage from a letter written at the time of his resignation to his sister, the wife of an officer in the National army;
"We are now in a state of war which will yield to nothing. The whole south is in a state of revolution, into which Virginia, after a long struggle, has been drawn; and though I recognize no necessity for this state of things, and would have forborne and pleaded to the end for redress of grievances, real or supposed, yet in my own person I had to meet the question whether I should take part against my native state. With all my devotion to the Union, and the feeling of loyalty and duty of an American citizen, I have not been able to make up my mind to raise my hand against my relatives, my children, my home. I have therefore resigned my commission m the army, and, save in defense of my native state--with the sincere hope that my poor services may never be needed--I hope I may never be called upon to draw my sword."
America's Four United Republics
General Order No. 9, the Confederate surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia signed by General Robert E. Lee. Dated April 10, 1865. - Historic.us Collection
HdQrs Army of No Va10th April 1865 General Order No 9
After four years of arduous service, marked by unsurpassed courage and fortitude, the Army of Northern Virginia has been compelled to yield to overwhelming numbers and resources.
I need not tell the brave survivors of so many hard fought battles who have remained steadfast to the last, that I have consented to this result from no distrust of them, But feeling that valor and devotion could accomplish nothing that could compensate for the loss that would have attended the continuance of the contest, I determined to avoid the useless sacrifice of those whose past services have endeared them to their countrymen.
By the terms of the agreement, Officers and men can return to their homes and remain until exchanged. You will take with you the satisfaction that proceeds from the consciousness of duty faithfully performed and I earnestly pray that a merciful God will extend to you His blessing and protection.
With an unceasing admiration of your constancy and devotion to your country, and a grateful remembrance of your kind and generous consideration of myself, I bid you all an affectionate farewell.
R E LeeGenl
One month later, General Joseph E. Johnston would surrender the CSA Southern Army to General W.T. Sherman:
The war being at an end, Lee withdrew at once from public affairs, betaking himself to the work of a simple citizen, not morosely, or in sullen vexation of spirit, but manfully, and with a firm conviction of duty. He frankly accepted the result, and used his great influence for the restoration of friendly relations between the lately warring sections, for the prompt return of his soldiers to peaceful pursuits, and for the turning of their devotion to the southern cause into a patriotic pride of American citizenship. He became president of Washington College, at Lexington, Va. (now Washington and Lee university), and passed the remainder of his life in earnest work as an educator of youth.
Physically, intellectually, and morally, Lee was a man of large proportions and unusual symmetry. Whether or not he possessed the highest order of genius, he had a mind of large grasp, great vigor and activity, and perfect self-possession. He was modest in his estimate of himself, but not lacking in that self-confidence which gives strength. His mind was pure, and his character upright in an eminent degree. His ruling characteristic was an inflexible devotion to duty, as he understood it, accompanied by a perfect readiness to make any and every sacrifice of self that ,night be required of him by circumstance. In manner he was dignified, courteous, and perfectly simple in temper he was calm, with the placidity of strength that is accustomed to rigid self-control. He was a type of perfectly healthy manhood, in which body and mind are equally under the control of clearly defined conceptions of right and duty. Descended from men who had won distinction by worth, and allied to others of like character, he was deeply imbued with a sense of his obligation to live and act in all things worthily. As a military commander he had thorough knowledge of the art of war, and large ability in its practice. His combinations were sound, and where opportunity permitted, brilliant, and his courage in undertaking great enterprises with scantily adequate means was supported by great skill in the effective employment of such means as were at his command. The tasks he set himself were almost uniformly such as a man of smaller courage would have shrunk from, and a man of less ability would have undertaken only to meet disaster. His military problem was so to employ an inferior force as to baffle the designs of an enemy possessed of a superior one. His great strength lay in that form of defense which involves the employment of offensive maneuvers as a means of choosing the times, places, and conditions of conflict. A military critic has said that he lacked the gift to seize upon the right moment for converting a successful defense into a successful attack, and the judgment appears to be in some measure sound.
In the seven days' fight
around Richmond his success was rendered much less complete than
it apparently ought to have been by his failure so to handle his
force as to bring its full strength to bear upon his adversary's
retreating column at the critical moment. At Fredericksburg he
seems to have put aside an opportunity to crush the enemy whom he
had repelled, when he neglected to press Burnside on the river
bank, and permitted him to withdraw to the other side unmolested.
After his victory at Chaneellorsville a greater readiness to
press his retreating foe would have promised results that for
lack of that readiness were not achieved. A critical study of his
campaigns seems also to show that he erred in giving too much
discretion to his lieutenants at critical junctures, when his own
fuller knowledge of the entire situation and plan of battle or
campaign should have been an absolutely controlling force. It is
no reflection upon those lieutenants to say that they did not
always make the wisest or most fortunate use of the discretion
thus given to them, for with their less complete information
concerning matters not immediately within their purview, their
decisions rested, of necessity, upon an inadequate knowledge of
the conditions of the problem presented. Instances of the kind to
which we refer are found in Stuart's absence with the cavalry
during all that part of t, he Gettysburg campaign which preceded
the battle, and in Ewell's failure to seize the strong position
at Gettysburg while it was still possible to do so. In both these
eases Lee directed the doing of that which wisdom dictated; in
both he left a large discretion to his lieutenant, in the
conscientious exercise of which an opportunity was
Edited Appleton's American Image Copyright© 2001 by VirtualologyTM
By: Stanley Yavneh Klos
Edited By: Naomi Yavneh Klos, Ph. D.
Mary Randolph Custis Lee, born at, Arlington House, Alexandria co., Va., in 1806; died in Lexington, Va., 6 Nov., 1873, was the only daughter of George Washington Parke Custis, the adopted son of Washington, and the grandson of his wife. In June, 1831, she married Robert E. Lee, by which event he came into possession of Arlington, on the Potomac river, and of the White House, on the Pamunkey. Mrs. Lee had strong intellectual powers, and persistently favored the Confederate cause. She was in Richmond during the civil war, and afterward accompanied her husband to Lexington, where she resided until her death.
"It is well that war is so terrible--we would grow too fond of it."
Born into a famous Virginia family on January 19, 1807, Robert E. Lee served his state with great devotion all his life. His family lived at Stratford and later Alexandria, Virginia. At the United States Military Academy he distinguished himself in both scholastics and martial exercises. He was adjutant of the corps and graduated second in the class of 1829. As a career officer, he served in posts in Georgia and Virginia and as commander of the light batteries, with General Scott, in the Mexican War. He served as superintendent of the U.S. Military Academy from 1848 to 1852. Although he was made lieutenant colonel of the Second Cavalry, family problems forced him into inactive duty for over two years. When the South seceded, Lee reluctantly resigned from the army, hoping to avoid participation in the war he deplored. However, a sense of duty to his state made him accept command of the Virginia forces. His successful strategy, his tactical skill, and the confidence of his troops earned him the respect of the Confederate leaders. President Jefferson Davis appointed him commander of the Army of Northern Virginia on April 1, 1862. The next three years demanded all Lee's strength until he was forced to surrender to General Ulysses S. Grant on April 9, 1865. Lee was paroled and accepted the presidency of Washington College (now Washington and Lee) in Lexington, Virginia. He served in that capacity from September 1865 until his death on October 12, 1870.
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