Robert E Lee Surrenders

Facts for Kids
Facts for Kids

Background:

General Robert Edward Lee was a famous American soldier and military leader. He was a combat engineer in US Army for nearly 32 years before joining Confederate Army as the commander of Northern Virginia Army. He served with distinction during the Mexican-American war and was also the commander of the marine detachment sent to quell John Brown’s raid on a federal arsenal in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia in 1857.

Lee personally wished to see the union intact but after his home state Virginia announced secession from Union, Lee decided to join the Confederate cause despite an offer of military command from Union. He served as the military advisor of Confederate president Jefferson Davis during the first year of the civil war and in 1862 assumed command of Northern Virginia army.

War Performance:

Robert E Lee was a brilliant military tactician. His novel tactics and ideas earned him many a victories in battles during American Civil War. However, some military historians criticize him for being overly aggressive and reckless. They blame his aggressive tactics for high number of casualties in battles fought under his command. Nonetheless, he had the courage and brilliance to defeat much bigger and better equipped Union armies in battlefield.

Battle of Gettysburg:

Despite being an excellent military tactician, Lee’s strategic foresight has been questioned by military historians. Both his major offensives failed terribly. In the summer of 1863, Lee started his offensive inside Union territory by marching into Maryland and Pennsylvania. He was engaged by Union general George G Meade in a three day battle at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

After gaining edge on the first day, Lee scuttled his advantage by not retreating in the face of a larger Union Army. Confederate forces suffered high number of casualties. Lee finally retreated and barley survived a pursuit by Meade. Robert Lee accepted his fault and sent his resignation to President Jefferson Davis, which was not accepted. However, Gettysburg was the start of Lee’s downward slide.

Union Offensive:

In 1864 Union General Ulysses S Grant decided to pitch his forces against Lee’s and destroy them through attrition. His plan was to push Lee into a siege around Richmond, Virginia. He fought a number of battles against Lee and every time drew closer to Richmond. Union army also laid siege around Petersburg. Despite Lee’s attempts to attack and destroy Union forces besieging Petersburg, Peters burg finally fell to Union army in April, 1865.

Surrender:

After the fall of Petersburg, Lee who had by now become the General-in-chief of all Confederate forces decided to escape to Southwest to join up with Confederate General Joseph Johnston’s forces in South Carolina. However, before he could do that his forces were surrounded by Union Forces and he was left with no way out.

Here Lee fought his final battle against union known was the Appomattox Campaign. Many of his subordinates advised him to disband his army into small groups and allow them to melt away into mountains and fight guerrilla war. Lee however; did not allow that as he was of the opinion that Confederate’s was a lost cause. General Lee eventually surrendered to Ulysses S Grant on 9th April, 1865 at Appomattox Court House, Virginia. His surrender resulted in a flurry of surrenders by other Confederate military leaders which hastened the end of war.