General Robert E. Lee
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General Robert E. Lee

BORN: January 19,1807

DIED:October 12,1870

The birth legend of Robert E. Lee, remains popular and is accepted as fact by many. This is the tale that Lee was born "after the death of his mother," some versions declaring that Mrs Lee was actually in her coffin when a servant heard her groan and saved her from being buried alive. Soon afterward, by this version, she gave birth to Robert E. Lee.
The accepted facts are that Anne Carter Lee bore the fourth child of Lighthorse Harry Lee at Stratford, the ancestral home, on January 19, 1807, and that the result of normal childbirth was Robert E. Lee. The only illness on record for Mrs Lee in this period is a severe cold she caught while riding in an open carriage a few days before the birth.
Robert, in any event, was born in a room said to have been the birthplace of two signers of the Declaration of Independence, Richard Henry Lee and Francis Lightfoot Lee.

General Robert E. Lee went to West Point Military Academy,he graduated 2nd in his class in 1829.He later returned to his alma mater to serve as Superintendent for the academy in 1852 until 1855.Lee sought to avoid the appointment, claiming that the post required "more skill and more experience than I command."Once his appeal was denied, Lee launched into his new duty with tireless zeal.He erected stables for the horses and expanded the officers' quarters and the cadet hospital. He tightened discipline and raised academic standards. For all these improvements, Lee was best remembered by the cadets for his stately bearing.

The Human Side of R.E. Lee

GENERAL LEE, a legend in his lifetime as a symbol of The Lost Cause, became a mythical hero in death. Beneath the quiet, grand air of the Southern gentleman-general, of course, he was a human being - warm, affectionate, hot-tempered, and falliable.

On June 30,1831 while serving as Second Lieutenant of Engineers at Fort Monroe, Virginia.He met and married Mary Ann Randolph Custis of Arlington.She was the only daughter of George Washington Parke Custis, the grandson of Martha Washington and the adopted grandson of George Washington.After giving birth to a second child in 1835, Mary was struck by arthritis.Lee was stunned.Despite her disability, Mary bore him five more children. Lee adored his children.Yet his love for them made even more painful his long absences from his family on tours of duty in Texas and other distance places. He and Mary had seven children total: William Henry Fitzhugh, George Washington Custis, Mary Custis, Annie Carter, Eleanor Agnes, Robert Edward and Mildred Childe.

When Lee was at war he got word of the death of his daughter Annie. His secretary saw him take the news without change of expression, as he did the scores of other messages that day, but when the aide returned unexpectedly a few minutes later, he saw the general with his head on his camp desk, sobbing.

Soldiers once watched him as he dismounted under fire at Petersburg to pick something from the ground and place it in a tree. When he had gone, the curious men found that he had replaced a fallen baby bird in its nest.

For months, at the height of the war, Lee had a pet hen which laid an egg under his cot each day -- and he never forgot to leave the tent flap open for her. Lee saw to it that the hen traveled with the army, even on so fateful a campaign as the invasion which ended at Gettysburg. When he began to retreat from that field, and the hen was nowhere to be found, the commanding general joined the search for his pet, and was not content until she was discovered and safely perched in his headquarters wagon.

On the morning of Appomattox, Lee had at least a passing thought of suicide. He said within hearing of his staff: "How easily I could be rid of this, and be at rest. I have only to ride along the line and all will be over." But in the next breath he spoke of the people of the South, their bleak future, and the need to help their recovery.

In the heavy firing of the opening battle of The Wilderness, a courier who dashed up to Lee with a dispatch was startled to get a scolding for having mistreated his horse by riding so swiftly. Lee then took a buttered biscuit from his saddlebag and fed the hungry animal before turning his attention to the battle.

Robert E.Lee shared his fathers' reverance for the memory of General Washington and that bond with the Father of our Country served as an inspiration throughout Lee's life.

Lee's first taste of fighting came during the Mexican War, and he distinguished himself. During the American bombardment of Vera Cruz the young captain emplaced a six-gun battery that pummeled the stronghold with 1,800 rounds and forced it to surrender.General Winfield Scott, the U.S. commander, called him "the very best soldier that I ever saw in the field."

On the eve of the Civil War,President Lincoln,with Secretary Francis Blair,offered him control of the Union Army.He was opposed to secession and considered slavery "evil".His view on the United States were equally clear "no north,no south,no east,no west"he wrote "but the broad Union in all it's might and strength past and present".

He would take no part in the invasion of the Southern States,so he resigned his commission and left his much beloved Arlington.On June 1,1862 he assumed command of the Army of Northern Virginia in the Confederate Capital of Richmond. Not until February 1865 was he named Commander in Chief of all confede-rate forces.

Robert E. Lee's first assignment after his graduation from West Point Academy was at Fort Pulaski, on Cockspur Island, Georgia. He was transferred to Fort Monroe, Virginia, as an assistant engineer, in 1831.

Robert Edward Lee did not believe in slavery and had long freed the few slaves that he had inherited, by the time that the "War of Northern Aggression" had begun. Lee also held strong beliefs that the Union should not be dissolved. Although he felt so strongly against secession, he believed the Southern states were protecting the very liberty, freedom and legal principles for which George Washington had left the British Empire.

At first he served as a military advisor to the Confederate President Jefferson Davis. In May, 1861, he was appointed to a full General and by fall he had taken charge of protecting the South Carolina coast against invasion. Thus began a career that would place him in the hearts of all Southerners for eternity. It has been recorded that Lee was one of the most beloved figures in American history. Lee was a man of character and a man who loved and obeyed God.

When General Joseph E. Johnston was wounded on June 1, 1862, his command devolved on General Robert E. Lee. During thirty-two months, Lee frustrated his Federal opponents and twice invaded the North. He was finally made commander in chief of Confederate forces on January 28, 1865. He held that post less than three months before surrendering at Appomattox Court House.

Lee visited his father's grave at "Dungeness"(on Cumberland Island) in 1830 while stationed at Fort Pulaski and again in January 1862 on his inspection tour of Confederate Coastal defenses. In 1810 Lee returned finding Dungeness "burned and the island devastated". In 1912 the Virginia legislature reinterred Harry "Lighthorse" Lee beside his son in the crypt at Washington and Lee University in Lexington. The original gravestone remains, with a slab explaining the removal of Lee's remains.

When Robert E. Lee decided to take the war far into enemy territory, fifty-one other generals accompanied him across the Pennsylvania state line. Returning to a relatively safe position in Virginia after Gettysburg, the commander of the Army of Northern Virginia had only thirty-four generals with him. In the decisive Pennsylvania battle, seventeen Confederate generals died.

Robert E. Lee's famous lost order (Special Order #191, September 9,1862) was found lying on the ground. Detailed information concerning Lee's plans was included in the document, which was in a small parcel wrapped with paper that also included three cigars.

General Lee managed to keep a elegant dress uniform clean during months in which he took it along on campaigns. As though he had watched over it for use on a very special occasion, he donned it in order to meet Grant at Appomattox.

Lee's legendary command came to an end at Appomattox,Virginia in April 1865 "There is nothing left for me to do", he said,"but go see General Grant, and I would rather die a thousand deaths."

On June 13, 1865, Robert E. Lee addressed a letter to "His Excellency Andrew Johnson" and a similar one to Lt. Gen. U.S. Grant. In both he pointed out that he was excluded from provisions of a federal proclamation of amnesty and pardon. As a result, he asked to be given the same treatment accorded to other ex-Confederates. Grant replied on June 20, 1865, saying that in his opinion the terms of surrender to which the two commanders had agreed protected Lee from trial on charges of treason. He was simultaneously requesting, said the Union commander, that all indictments against paroled prisoners of war be squashed. Almost as a footnote, Grant pointed out that Lee's oath of allegiance was not being forwarded because "the order requiring it had not reached Richmond " when he wrote his lengthy letter. Subsequent efforts to have Lee's citizenship restored failed because that all-important piece of paper could not be found. At the Library of Congress, Elmer O. Parker discovered Lee's oath that had "for a century remained buried in the nation's archives." Dated October 2, 1865, and duly notarized, it constituted the former Confederate's solemn vow to protect and defend the Constitution and the United of the States. He simultaneously promised to "abide by and faithfully support all laws and proclamations with reference to the emancipation of slaves." When that vital written vow was presented to lawmakers, Congress took another vote. When the tally was made, it showed that Lee's citizenship was formally restored---105years after he took the oath of allegiance.

Mary Boykin Chestnut, diarist and wife of a top civilian aide to Davis, confessed that she never ceased to be awed when she was in the presence of General Robert E. Lee. "He looks so cold and quiet and grand," she wrote of him.

He died October 12, 1870, just two days after a flood had swept the hill country. The Lexington undertaker, C.M. Koones, was embarrassed to report that he had no coffins, since the three he had lately imported from Richmond had been swept away from his river wharf. Two young men --Charles H. Chittum and Henry Wallace --volunteered to search for a coffin for the Lee funeral. They sought for hours before discovering one which had been swept over a dam and had lodged on an island some two miles downstream. Thus was provided the coffin in which the Confederacy's greatest figure was buried. The casket was too short for Lee and he was buried without his shoes. (Lee was a small man; his shoe size was four and a half.)

He is buried in The Lee Chapel Museum.His Original burial site wasHere

To see where "Traveller" one of General Lee's favorite horses, is buried Click Here

General Robert E. Lees original home (Stratford Hall)

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