Robert E. Lee born

Robert E. Lee born

Confederate General Robert Edward Lee is born in Westmoreland County, Virginia. Lee commanded the Army of Northern Virginia during most of the Civil War and his brilliant battlefield leadership earned him a reputation as one of the greatest military leaders in history as he consistently defeated larger Union armies.

Lee challenged Union forces during the war’s bloodiest battles, including Antietam and Gettysburg, before surrendering to Union General Ulysses S. Grant in 1865 at Appomattox Court House in Virginia, marking the end of the devastating conflict.

He died at age 63 on October 12, 1870, following a stroke.

READ MORE: How the Cult of Robert E. Lee Was Born

Lee family

The Lee family of the United States is a historically significant Virginia and Maryland political family, whose many prominent members are known for their accomplishments in politics and the military. The family became prominent in colonial British North America when Richard Lee I ("The Immigrant") immigrated to Virginia in 1639 and made his fortune in tobacco.

Current regionVirginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Washington, D.C., Florida
Place of originEngland
MembersThomas Lee, Francis Lightfoot Lee, Richard Henry Lee, Henry Lee III, Thomas Sim Lee, Robert E. Lee
Estate(s)Stratford Hall

Members of the family include Thomas Lee (1690–1750), a founder of the Ohio Company and a member of the Virginia House of Burgesses Francis Lightfoot Lee (1734–1797) and Richard Henry Lee (1732–1794), signers of the American Declaration of Independence, with Richard Lee also serving as one of Virginia's inaugural U.S. Senators Henry "Light-Horse Harry" Lee (1756–1818), Lieutenant Colonel in the Continental Army and Governor of Virginia Thomas Sim Lee (1745–1819), Governor of Maryland and lastly, and most famous, General-in-Chief Robert E. Lee (1807–1870), commander of the Confederate States Army and its pivotal Army of Northern Virginia for the Confederate States of America in the American Civil War (1861-1865). Twelfth President Zachary Taylor (1784-1850, served 1849-1850), and ninth Chief Justice Edward Douglass White (1845-1921, served 1894-1921) were also descendants of Richard Lee I. Confederate President Jefferson Davis married Sarah Knox Taylor, daughter of Zachary Taylor.

Most recently, family members have marked over two hundred years of political service in the United States, as Blair Lee III (1916-1985, served 1971-1979), a descendant of Richard Henry Lee, served as the second Lieutenant Governor of Maryland when the office was revived, from 1971–1979 and Acting Governor of Maryland from 1978–1979. Charles Carter Lee, a descendant of Henry Lee III and a Superior Court Judge in Los Angeles County, California was named the U.S. team's Chef de Mission by the United States Olympic Committee for the Beijing Olympics.

Robert E. Lee born - HISTORY

  • Occupation: Military leader and general
  • Born: January 19, 1807 in Stratford Hall, Virginia
  • Died: October 12, 1870 in Lexington, Virginia
  • Best known for: Commanding the Confederate Army of Virginia during the Civil War

Where did Robert E. Lee grow up?

Robert E. Lee was born on January 19, 1807 in Stratford Hall, Virginia. His father, Henry, was a hero during the American Revolutionary War where he earned the nickname "Light Horse Harry". His mother, Ann Carter, came from a wealthy family.

Despite his family's pedigree, they were not rich. Robert's father had made some bad business deals and lost all of the family's money. When Robert was two years old, his dad went to debtor's prison. A few years later his dad went to the West Indies and never returned.

Since Robert's family didn't have any money, he saw the military as a great way to get a free education and to have a career. He entered the West Point Military Academy at the age of 18 and graduated in 1829 near the top of his class. After graduating, he joined the Army Corps of Engineers where he would help build forts and bridges for the army.

In 1831 Robert married Mary Custis. Mary came from a famous family and was the great-granddaughter of Martha Washington. Mary and Robert would have 7 children over the years, including three boys and four girls.

Lee's first encounter with combat and war took place during the Mexican-American War. He reported to General Winfield Scott who would later say that Lee was one of the best soldiers he had ever seen in battle. Lee was promoted to colonel for his efforts during the war and had made a name for himself as a military leader.

In 1859, John Brown led his raid at Harpers Ferry. He was protesting slavery in the South and was hoping to start up a revolt among the slaves. Lee was in charge of a group of marines sent in to stop the raid. Once Lee arrived, the marines quickly subdued John Brown and his men. Once again, Lee had made a name for himself.

When the Civil War began in 1861, Lee was offered command of the Union army by President Lincoln. Lee, however, was also loyal to his home state of Virginia. Although he didn't agree with slavery, Lee felt he could not fight against his home state. He left the United States Army and became General of the Confederate Army of Virginia.

Commander of the Army of Northern Virginia

Lee took command of one of the most important armies during the Civil War. The Virginia army fought many of the key battles of the eastern front. Lee chose talented officers such as Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson and Jeb Stuart. Although the Confederate armies were constantly outnumbered by the Union armies, Lee and his men managed to win many battles through their brilliance and courage.

Lee earned the nickname the Grey Fox. The "grey" was because he wore the grey uniform of the Confederate soldier and rode a grey horse. The "fox" was because he was smart and cunning as a military leader.

Civil War Battles where Lee commanded

Lee commanded during many famous Civil War battles including the Seven Days Battle, the Battle of Antietam, the Battle of Fredericksburg, the Battle of Gettysburg, the Battle of Cold Harbor, and the Battle of Appomattox.

Lee fought brilliantly, but eventually the overwhelming numbers of the Union forces had him surrounded. On April 9, 1865 General Robert E. Lee surrendered his army to General Ulysses S. Grant at the courthouse in Appomattox, Virginia. He received good terms for his soldiers, who were given food and allowed to return home.

Although Lee could have been tried and hung as a traitor to the United States, he was forgiven by President Lincoln. Lee became president of Washington College in Lexington, Virginia. He worked there until he died from a stroke in 1870. Lee only wanted peace and healing for the United States after the Civil War.

Traveller, sired by notable racehorse Grey Eagle and originally named Jeff Davis, [1] was born to Flora in 1857 near the Blue Sulphur Springs, in Greenbrier County, Virginia (now West Virginia) and was first owned and raised by James W. Johnston. An American Saddlebred, he was of Grey Eagle stock [2] as a colt, he took the first prize at the Lewisburg, Virginia fairs in 1859 and 1860. As an adult he was a sturdy horse, 16 hands (64 inches, 163 cm) high and 1,100 pounds (500 kg), iron gray in color with black point coloration, a long mane and a flowing tail. He was next owned by Captain Joseph M. Broun and renamed Greenbrier. [1]

In the spring of 1861, a year before achieving fame as a Confederate general, Robert E. Lee was commanding a small force in western Virginia. The quartermaster of the 3rd Regiment, Wise Legion, [3] [4] Captain Joseph M. Broun, was directed to "purchase a good serviceable horse of the best Greenbrier stock for our use during the war." Broun purchased the horse for $175 (approximately $4,545 in 2008) [5] from Andrew Johnston's son, Captain James W. Johnston, and named him Greenbrier. Major Thomas L. Broun, Joseph's brother recalled that Greenbrier:

. was greatly admired in camp for his rapid, springy walk, his high spirit, bold carriage, and muscular strength. He needed neither whip nor spur, and would walk his five or six miles an hour over the rough mountain roads of Western Virginia with his rider sitting firmly in the saddle and holding him in check by a tight rein, such vim and eagerness did he manifest to go right ahead so soon as he was mounted.

General Lee took a great fancy to the horse. He called him his "colt", and predicted to Broun that he would use it before the war was over. After Lee was transferred to South Carolina, Joseph Broun sold the horse to him for $200 in February 1862. Lee named the horse "Traveller".

Lee described his horse in a letter in response to his wife's cousin, Markie Williams, who wished to paint a portrait of Traveller:

If I was an artist like you, I would draw a true picture of Traveller representing his fine proportions, muscular figure, deep chest, short back, strong haunches, flat legs, small head, broad forehead, delicate ears, quick eye, small feet, and black mane and tail. Such a picture would inspire a poet, whose genius could then depict his worth, and describe his endurance of toil, hunger, thirst, heat and cold and the dangers and suffering through which he has passed. He could dilate upon his sagacity and affection, and his invariable response to every wish of his rider. He might even imagine his thoughts through the long night-marches and days of the battle through which he has passed. But I am no artist Markie, and can therefore only say he is a Confederate gray.

Traveller was a horse of great stamina and was usually a good horse for an officer in battle because he was difficult to frighten. He could sometimes become nervous and spirited, however. At the Second Battle of Bull Run, while General Lee was at the front reconnoitering, dismounted and holding Traveller by the bridle, the horse became frightened at some movement of the enemy and, plunging, pulled Lee down on a stump, breaking both of his hands. Lee went through the remainder of that campaign chiefly in an ambulance. When he rode on horseback, a courier rode in front leading his horse.

After the war, Traveller accompanied Lee to Washington College in Lexington, Virginia. He lost many hairs from his tail to admirers (veterans and college students) who wanted a souvenir of the famous horse and his general. Lee wrote to his daughter Mildred Childe Lee that "the boys are plucking out his tail, and he is presenting the appearance of a plucked chicken." [6]

In 1870, during Lee's funeral procession, Traveller was led behind the caisson bearing the General's casket, his saddle and bridle draped with black crepe. Not long after Lee's death, in 1871, Traveller stepped on a nail and developed tetanus. [7] There was no cure, and he was shot to relieve his suffering.

Traveller was initially buried behind the main buildings of the college, but was unearthed by persons unknown and his bones were bleached for exhibition in Rochester, New York, in 1875/1876. In 1907, Richmond journalist Joseph Bryan paid to have the bones mounted and returned to the college, named Washington and Lee University since Lee's death, and they were displayed in the Brooks Museum, in what is now Robinson Hall. The skeleton was periodically vandalized there by students who carved their initials in it for good luck. In 1929, the bones were moved to the museum in the basement of the Lee Chapel, where they stood for 30 years, deteriorating with exposure.

Finally in 1971, Traveller's remains were buried in a wooden box encased in concrete next to the Lee Chapel on the Washington & Lee campus, a few feet away from the Lee family crypt inside, where his master's body rests. The stable where he lived his last days, directly connected to the Lee House on campus, traditionally stands with its doors left open this is said to allow his spirit to wander freely. The 24th President of Washington & Lee (and thus a recent resident of Lee House), Thomas Burish, caught strong criticism from many members of the Washington & Lee community for closing the stable gates in violation of this tradition. Burish later had the doors to the gates repainted in a dark green color, which he referred to in campus newspapers as "Traveller Green".

The base newspaper of the United States Army's Fort Lee, located in Petersburg, Virginia, is named Traveller.

Although the most famous, Traveller was not Lee's only horse during the war:

  • Lucy Long, a mare, was the primary backup horse to Traveller. She remained with the Lee family after the war, dying considerably after Lee, when she was thirty-four years old. She was a gift from J.E.B. Stuart who purchased her from Adam Stephen Dandridge of The Bower. Notably, she was ridden by Lee at the Battle of Chancellorsville.
  • Richmond, a bay colored stallion, was acquired by General Lee in early 1861. He died in 1862 after the Battle of Malvern Hill.
  • Brown-Roan, or The Roan, was purchased by Lee in West Virginia around the time of Traveller's purchase. He went blind in 1862 and had to be retired.
  • Ajax, a sorrel horse, was too large for Lee to ride comfortably and was thus used infrequently.

James Longstreet, one of Lee's most trusted generals, was referred to by Lee as his Old War Horse because of his reliability. After the Civil War, many Southerners were angered by Longstreet's defection to the Republican Party and blamed him for their defeat in the Civil War. However, Lee supported reconciliation and was pleased with how Longstreet had fought in the War. This nickname was Lee's symbol of trust.

History Of Robert E Lee

Robert Lee was born in the year 1807 on January 19 to Ann Hill Carter and Henry Lee. Lee&rsquos father was not only the governor of Virginia but he was a war hero himself. Lee&rsquos father did not manage his wealth well and he was quite preoccupied with his political responsibilities. Henry Lee expired when Robert was quite young and hence, he faced a difficult childhood.

Since Robert&rsquos family was not financially well off, he could not pursue traditional mainstream education at any university and he enrolled himself into West Point and graduated in flying colors in the year 1829.

Within three years, he got married Mary Anne Randolph Custis, his distant cousin, who hailed from a wealthy family. Her father was a wealthy plantation owner and she was a natural heiress to lot of plantation properties. In addition, she was also the great grand-daughter of Martha Washington.

Robert served the Engineering Corps and took up a few more routine assignments before he served the Mexican war. He met Gen. Winfield Scott around this time and won lot of appreciation from him. He later got a transfer to cavalry in order to gain faster promotion. Between 1852 and 1855, he served as the superintendent of the Military Academy of the US. In 1859, he was called to lead marines at the Harper&rsquos Ferry against John Brown. This won him national acclaim.

When the American Civil war began, Lee, a southerner at heart, detested slavery, refrained form supporting the secession of his home state, Virginia and also refused to accept invasion of the states that were seceded.

Lee suffered a stroke and died in 1870 at Lexington.

Born on January 19, 1807 to Henry Lee and Ann Hill Carter, Robert Lee hailed from one of the powerful ruling families in Virginia. Henry Lee, a revolutionary hero himself was also the governor of Virginia. However, his mismanagement of finances paved the way to poverty for his wife and children. Henry Lee died when Robert was very young. More..

Robert E. Lee born - HISTORY

Robert E. Lee was born on January 19, 1807 at Stratford, Virginia, the youngest son in a wealthy family. He was groomed for a military career from an early age, as his father was a general in the American army. Lee entered officer training at the West Point Academy at the age of 18 in 1825. He graduated as the second best of his class and was assigned to the military engineers corps. He married Mary Custis, granddaughter of George Washington in 1831.

Mexican-American War

In his 32 years in the army, he served in several different areas of the United States and saw action during the Mexican American War between 1846 and 1848. He took part in what was the first sizeable amphibious operation in the U.S. when 12,000 troops were landed, along with supplies, arms and horses, to lay siege to the city of Veracruz.

He fought in battles in Contreras and Churubusco and was wounded at Chapultepec. In that campaign he was promoted from captain to Colonel. The Commander in Chief of the army, Winfield Scott once said “Lee is the best soldier I’ve seen in combat”.

Lee had established himself as a lateral thinker, and was responsible for the Americans winning several victories through his personal reconnaissance missions in which he explored possible attack routes that were left undefended by the Mexicans, who thought that it was not possible to move troops and equipment over the poor terrain.

West Point

Lee was made Superintendent of the West Point Military Academy in 1852, a position he held for three years. He was reluctant to take the post, but was left with no choice and committed himself to improving the standards of accommodation and training in the Academy. While Lee was superintendent, his eldest son attended West Point and graduated in 1854 at the top of his class.

In 1855, he was transferred to Texas where he served with the Second Cavalry at Camp Cooper, under the command of Colonel Albert Johnston. These troops were active in protecting and defending settlers from attacks by Comanche and Apache natives.

Civil War

The political environment suffered a major upheaval when President Lincoln instituted the Federal United States, which would be ruled by a central Government. The majority of states were governed independently, and had no accountability to the Federal Government. Several states, mainly in the southern region, opposed the federation, not wanting to lose their power and their ability to raise taxes. A particular bone of contention was Lincoln’s plan to abolish slavery. Slaves were the main workforce at the large southern plantations.

When fighting broke out between the North and the South, Lee’s reputation was so high that on April 18, 1861 President Lincoln offered him the command of the Federal Army. Lee refused and a day after the state of Virginia chose to leave the Union, Lee quit his commission in the army and moved to Richmond, Virginia.

While Lee was originally opposed to secession, and urged that all other avenues to resolve the disagreements should be explored, he declared his first loyalty was to his native state. He became supreme commander of all Virginia state forces on April 23. When the Confederate States Army was established, Lee was promoted and became one of its first generals and led his men to defeat at the Battle of Cheat Mountain.

Defending the South

Lee’s next task was to organize the Confederate defenses along the coasts of Georgia and Carolina and other areas. A delay by the Federal Army in launching its offensive meant that Lee had plenty of time to construct impressive defenses. He was so successful in his defense strategy that the Federal Army, far superior in manpower and equipment, was unable to score a quick, decisive victory and the Civil War was to drag on for years.

On June 1, 1862 Lee was appointed commander of the Army of Northern Virginia, a decision that was criticized by many who felt he was not aggressive enough in his approach. However, Lee soon showed that he was not lacking in aggression, launching offensives against the Union Army of the Potomac, which was engaged in its Peninsula Campaign. Although suffering heavy casualties, Confederate forces succeeded in driving back the Federal Army, and bringing the Peninsula Campaign to a halt.

The Confederate President, Jefferson Davis, had declared Richmond the capital of the South, and in the early part of the Civil War, the primary goal of the Federal forces was to capture Richmond, believing it would be a very hard military and psychological blow if it fell into the hands of the Union.

In pursuit of this objective, the Army of the Potomac, commanded by Major General Ambrose E. Burnside, had suffered a heavy defeat by Lee in Fredericksburg in December 1862. In the spring of 1863, Major General Joseph Hooker took command of the Army of the Potomac. General Lee, with his Army of Northern Virginia, was camped in the vicinity of Chancellorsville.

Battle of Chancellorsville

The northern forces were far superior to the South, and Hooker, who was aware of this situation, divided his army to be able to take advantage of their numerical superiority. He sent Major General Sedgwick with an army of 40,000 men to confront Lee, whose army numbered 60,000 troops, directly at Chancellorsville while Hooker started northward with 40,000 men to move behind the encampment and attack the flank. He maintained an army of 35,000 men as reinforcements and he sent his cavalry to cut the supply lines of the Confederate Army.

Once again, the Union offensive was unsuccessful, and the Confederate forces under Lee emerged victorious, though suffering a very high casualty rate. After Chancellorsville, the next major encounter between Lee’s army and the Federal forces took place at Gettysburg on July 1, 1863.

Battle of Gettysburg

The Battle of Gettysburg resulted in a significant defeat for Lee and the Confederates, and it was to mark the last attempt by Lee to launch a major counter offensive against Federal troops. Thereafter, Lee concentrated on defending Richmond and Petersburg.

Lee continued to defend the South at several other battles, many of which were inconclusive, but all of which resulted in further depletion of Lee’s manpower and resources. He recorded a victory over the Federal army at the Battle of Deep Bottom in August 1864, but it was a lost cause at that stage, and Lee finally surrendered in April 1865.

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Now, a new take on Robert E. Lee, the famous Confederate general, with President George Washington as the touchstone.

I recently talked with the author of this look at two men who helped shape American history.

The civil war split families, states and the nation 74 years after the signing of the Constitution, the United States was torn in two. One of the more conflicted participants in the war was none other than Robert E. Lee, a son of a Revolutionary War hero who was a trusted aide to General George Washington. He married the daughter of Washington's adopted son.

At the outbreak of the Civil War, Lee had served 25 years with the U.S. Army, but in April 1861, he turned down an offer to command the Union Army, resigned his commission, and accepted the command of the military and naval forces of Virginia.

All this and more can be found in the new book, "The Man Who Would Not Be Washington: Robert E. Lee's Civil War and His Decision That Changed American History" by Jonathan Horn, who served as a speechwriter and special assistant to former President George W. Bush.

Jonathan Horn, welcome to the NewsHour.

JONATHAN HORN, Author, "The Man Who Would Not Be Washington": Thanks for having me.


So, you grew up in the area around Washington. Is that where this interest in Robert E. Lee came from?


That's exactly where this interest came up.

If you glow up on the Potomac River, you have so much of Robert E. Lee's and George Washington's history all around you. Robert E. Lee was born in Westmoreland County downriver from Washington, and so was Washington. Robert E. Lee grew up in Alexandria, Virginia, right near George Washington's Mount Vernon plantation, and Robert E. Lee married his wife at Arlington House, which is that great pillared mansion that's now a similar tear, but back then it was actually a memorial to George Washington.

It was filled with relics of George Washington, because, as you mentioned, Robert E. Lee had married the daughter of George Washington's adopted son.


So, describe the decision he made that you argue changed American history.


Robert E. Lee actually opposed secession. I think that's a surprise to most people today.

But he was actually reading a biography of George Washington as the Union comes apart. And as he's reading this biography, he concludes that the founding fathers themselves would have opposed secession. But then he gets this offer. He gets called to Washington by an emissary for Abraham Lincoln, who says the country looks to you as the representative of the Washington family to save the Union.

And Lee turns downs this command because, as much as he loves the Union, he can't imagine going to war against his native state of Virginia.


So, the premise then is that here's this great man who was considered a great hero for the Confederacy in the Civil War. When the moment came for a decision that would matter, he made the wrong one.


That's very much what happened. He forever cast his fate against George Washington's greatest legacy, the Union, and that's ultimately what made me want to write the story, is that tragic tension in Lee's life, how a soldier so associated with George Washington goes to war against George Washington's greatest legacy, the Union.


And he continued to be conflicted about it. You write about what he went through in the period after that.


And what's amazing is after the war, he actually revises his views and he starts saying, maybe the founding fathers hadn't been opposed to secession. And he does try revisit what happened. He really is tortured. There are lots of descriptions of him with very sad looks on his face riding his horse after the war and people wondering, what is he thinking?


You also write, Jonathan Horn, about what he thought about slavery. He wasn't comfortable with it, but he did in the end defended it. He kept slaves. You even tell a really remarkable story.

You quote someone as describing a scene where he himself whipped a female slave who had tried to escape, when one of his employees said he couldn't do it.


Right. And that's one of the most controversial moments in Robert E. Lee's life.

We don't know exactly what happened there. He denied that story. But what is so interesting is, what most entangled Robert E. Lee in the institution of slavery &mdash because he really didn't want to be involved with it. He wanted to stay away from it.

But we shouldn't make the mistake of thinking he was an abolitionist. He certainly wasn't. But what happened is, his father-in-law, who was George Washington's adopted son, dies and leaves a will naming Robert E. Lee as executor of estates. And those estates actually include slaves who have descended from Mount Vernon, George Washington's home.

So on the eve of the Civil War, Robert E. Lee is managing slaves who have direct connections to the father of our country.


You write not only about the decision that he made to join the Confederacy, but about decisions he made as a general. He has a reputation as a brilliant general. It's the reason that both the North and the South went after him.

But, in the end, when you look at the decisions he made as a general, was he a great general?


He was a brilliant military mind.

And what's so interesting about Lee is, we have this impression of him always taking the initiative in battle, even though his forces were outmanned and outgunned. But he never saw it that way. He always thought he had no choice. He had to take incredible risks because the odds against him were so stacked.

And so the way we view Lee today isn't necessarily the way he viewed himself.


Was there a chance that with Lee in charge in the South, the South could have prevailed?


I don't think we can say anything is inevitable. If those Union soldiers hadn't held Cemetery Ridge at Gettysburg, who knows what would have happened. I think one of the lessons I took away from this book is that nothing is inevitable in history. History turns on the decisions of single individuals all the time. And we shouldn't ever make the mistake of thinking that history is inevitable.


Well, it is a fascinating book, whether you are into Civil War history or not.

It's "The Man Who Would Not Be Washington: Robert E. Lee's Civil War and His Decision That Changed American History"

The George Washington of the Confederacy

Jefferson Davis might have been the Confederacy’s first, and only, president, but it was Robert E. Lee who was the true father of his country, the Confederate States of America—even though he had wished the day of secession had never come.

Lee’s identification with Washington was strong. His father, “Light Horse Harry” Lee had served under Washington and had famously eulogized him in 1799 as “first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen”—words that were used to introduce Robert E. Lee himself in the Virginia House of Delegates as commander of the state’s military forces after secession. One of his first Confederate staff officers was John A. Washington, a nephew of George Washington. Earlier, at Harpers Ferry, he rescued George Washington’s cousin, Lewis W. Washington, from the clutches of John Brown.

Lee had been born a mere eight years after Washington’s death and had married into Washington’s family. His wife, Mary Anna Randolph Custis, was the daughter of George Washington Parke Custis who had been raised, almost from birth, by George Washington as his own son at Mount Vernon (Custis’s grandmother was a Washington, Martha Dandridge Custis Washington). Arlington House, which became Lee’s family home, had been the estate of Custis and was filled with mementoes of the first president. Lee’s eldest son was named George Washington Custis Lee.

The stoic Washington was Lee’s model of what it meant to be a leader, a soldier, an American, and a Virginian. Like Washington, Robert E. Lee had been born a gentleman, but in circumstances where he quickly learned the necessity of hard work, discipline, and frugality. He shared his class’s and his people’s Episcopalian convictions, and with that came a belief that, in the fullness of time, slavery would pass away. Washington had freed his slaves upon his death. Custis’s will mandated that his slaves would be emancipated five years after his death. And Lee’s wife dutifully taught the family’s slaves how to read and write, and the women how to sew. She wanted to prepare them for their freedom. As Virginians, and as conservatives, they felt that this was the way manumission should be achieved—through the free consent of the masters, and with proper preparation of their slaves not by force, not at the barrel of a gun, and not by a social or political revolution. For them, the intemperate hectoring of the abolitionists, the agitational propaganda of Uncle Tom’s Cabin (which bore no relation to their personal experience of slavery), and the threatened insurrection of John Brown was all uninformed and dangerous radicalism.

Rober E. Lee considered himself a Union man he deprecated secession as revolution, something no conservative could countenance willingly. “I must say that I am one of those dull creatures that cannot see the good of secession.” But he understood that it was an extremity to which abolitionists were forcing the South. Of the northern abolitionists, Lee wrote, “Their object is both unlawful & entirely foreign” and their goal of emancipating the slaves “can only be achieved by them through the agency of a civil & servile war.” Lee’s assessment proved accurate, and it makes one suspect that Lee’s other prediction might have been proven right as well: that if the northern abolitionists had only let the South be, Providence would have taken its course and slavery eventually and peaceably would have met its natural end in emancipation. Every other Western, Christian slave-holding society in the nineteenth century followed precisely that path.

Lee had deep roots in Virginia, going back to 1641 on his paternal side and even farther back on this mother’s, Ann Hill Carter’s, side. Her father, Charles “King” Carter was the largest landholder in the state. Robert E. Lee’s father, “Light Horse Harry” Lee was an adventurer, who, like many adventurers, was less gifted with money and financial acumen than he was with a sword. And just as he had once lopped off the heads of deserters (sending one bleeding specimen to a horrified George Washington), his family found him lopping off the family fortune in a series of bad investments. Nevertheless, he was a man of honor. In 1812, he stood against a mob attacking the newspaper of a friend of his. He and his friend were Federalists the mob, Jeffersonian Republicans. The mob beat him nearly to death. He never fully recovered, and after a self-imposed exile in the West Indies, he died in 1818.

What this meant for Robert E. Lee was that while he venerated his father, he hardly knew him while he had been born to moneyed and storied families, his widowed mother had little money and no land of her own. The result was not felt as a tragedy by the young Robert E. Lee, who was by all accounts a happy lad and a conscientious, active, and thoughtful boy.

His character was stamped, from the beginning, by a natural poise. He received a classical education, excelling in mathematics, and had a love of order. From his mother he received a deep and sincere Christian piety practiced within the denominational confines of Virginia’s ruling class, the Episcopal Church. He was handsome—indeed, at one point he was considered the handsomest man in the army—and with a powerful physique. But most of all, he seemed gifted with intelligence, dignity, charm, good humor, and a character apparently unstained in thought and deed. He attended West Point and graduated second in his class as a corps adjutant (the highest rank a cadet could receive) without a single demerit.

Robert E Lee Childhood

Robert Lee was born on January 19 to Henry Lee (popularly referred to as &ldquoLight-Horse Harry&rdquo) and Ann Hill Carter in the year 1807 at Stratford. He hailed from a powerful family of the ruling Virginians during those times.

Lee&rsquos father was a revolutionary hero himself and then became the governor of Virginia. He was quite preoccupied with political affairs and also faced financial difficulties as he did not know how to manage his wealth and assets well. Henry Lee died when Robert was very young and not so surprisingly, he had to fight a poor childhood and come up.

Robert Lee was not able to afford a traditional college education despite hailing from such a powerful wealthy family. Without much choice, he joined West Point and graduated in the year 1829. He was admired by his peers and he initially served the Engineering Corps.

Those days, intermarriage was quite common among the ruling families in Virginia. Three years after graduation from WestPoint Lee married Mary Anne Randolph Custis, his distant cousin. She hailed from a wealthy family. Her dad was a plantation owner and she was also the great-granddaughter of the renowned Martha Washington. She was a natural heiress to many plantation properties.

After taking up some routine assignments, Lee served the Mexican War where he came in contact with Gen. Winfield Scott. This was an opportunity for him to display his heroism and brilliance and he won accolades from General Scott. Lee suffered a stroke during September 1870 and died just two weeks later in Lexington on October 12.

Robert Lee was born in the year 1807 on January 19 to Ann Hill Carter and Henry Lee. Lee&rsquos father was not only the governor of Virginia but he was a war hero himself. Lee&rsquos father did not manage his wealth well and he was quite preoccupied with his political responsibilities. Henry Lee expired when Robert was quite young and hence, he faced a difficult childhood. More..

Later Years and Death

Robert returned after the surrender of the Confederacy, and Mary moved with Robert to Lexington, Virginia, where he became president of Washington College (later renamed Washington and Lee University).

During the war, many of the family possessions inherited from the Washingtons were buried for safety. After the war, many were found to have been damaged, but some—the silver, some carpets, some letters among them—survived. Those that had been left in the Arlington home were declared by Congress to be the property of the American people.

Neither Robert E. Lee nor Mary Custis Lee survived many years after the end of the Civil War. He died in 1870. Arthritis plagued Mary Custis Lee in her later years, and she died in Lexington on Nov. 5, 1873—after making one trip to see her old Arlington home. In 1882, the U.S. Supreme Court in a ruling returned the home to the family Mary and Robert's son Custis sold it right back to the government.

Mary Custis Lee is buried with her husband on the Washington and Lee University campus in Lexington, Virginia.