General Robert E. Lee was the commander-in-chief of the Confederate armies during the American Civil War. He was a brilliant soldier and an accomplished military strategist. Despite the fact that Union armies were larger and better equipped, Lee was able to use smaller Confederate armies to gain many important victories during the Civil War.
Robert E. Lee was born in Stratford Hall, Virginia on January 19, 1807. He came from a well-known family and his father fought in the American War of Independence, gaining fame as a war hero due to his exploits on the battlefield.
However, when Lee was still quite young, his family lost all their money and his father went away to West Indies. Lee joined the West Point Military Academy which would provide him with a free education.
Robert E. Lee graduate from the West Point Military Academy in 1829. He initially became a part of the Army Corps of Engineers which was tasked with constructing buildings and other infrastructure for the army.
His first major role on the battlefield came during the American-Mexican War. During this war, Lee distinguished himself by his courage and bravery. As a result, he was promoted to the rank of Colonel. In 1859, he again became prominent when he dispersed the raid at Harpers Ferry and stopped attempts by John Brown to start a slave revolt.
Robert E. Lee was against slavery but when the American Civil War started, his home state of Virginia sided with the Confederacy. Lee thought that his allegiance lay with his home state and so he left the US Army and went back to Virginia. Back in Virginia, he was well-known as an accomplished soldier. So he was offered the position of the General of the Confederate Army of Virginia.
As the General of the Virginia Army, Lee fought a number of battles against the Union armies. Although his army was outnumbered in most of the battles, Lee was still able to use his army’s strengths intelligently and defeated the Union armies many times.
His army included the famous southern military commander, Stonewall Jackson, whom Lee called his ‘right arm’. Among the famous battles which Lee fought against the Union army are included the Battle of Antietam and the Battle of Gettysburg.
Although Lee fought bravely and honorably, the overwhelming numbers of the Union armies soon turned the tide of the war in favor of the Union. As a result, Lee had to surrender with his army.
In April, 1865, Robert E. Lee and his Confederate army were surrounded by the Union army of General Ulysses S. Grant. Lee thought that rather than waste lives unnecessarily, it was wiser to surrender. And so, he surrendered along with his army.
His army was the first Confederate army to formally surrender to the Union and it marked the end of the American Civil War. General Ulysses S. Grant respected Robert E. Lee and offered generous terms of surrender to the Confederate soldiers.
After the American Civil War ended, Robert E. Lee continued to live in Virginia. He was appointed as the president of Washington College in Lexington, in recognition for his service to the state. Lee continued to serve on this position until his death in 1870.