Robert E Lee

Facts for Kids
Facts for Kids

Introduction: Robert Lee was an American military officer best known for commanding Army of Northern Virginia from Confederate side in the US Civil War. Lee was born on January 19, 1807 in Stratford Hall, Virginia. His father Henry ‘Light Horse Harry’ Lee III was a revolutionary war hero and governor of Virginia (1791-94). He joined US Military Academy, West Point in 1825 and upon graduation in 1829 he joined the Corp of Engineers in US Army.

Military Career: Robert Lee had a distinguished military career as a combat engineer in US Army. His career spanned over 32 years. During his service he saw action in Mexican-American War and served as the superintendant of US Military Academy. He was also the commander of the marines detachment sent to quell John Brown’s raid on an federal arsenal in Harpers Ferry in 1859.

Robert Lee personally was against secession and made it clear on more than one occasions. However, he was also a staunch supporter of his home state Virginia’s cause. After Virginia seceded in February, 1861, Lee resigned his commission and joined the Northern Virginia forces in April, 1861. Prior to his resignation he was offered an important military position in Union Army. He however, chose to stand by his home state and people.

Civil War: Robert Lee commanded the Army of Northern Virginia during the civil war. Under his command the Virginian forces fought many important battles on the eastern front. He commanded Confederate troops in famous battles of Antietam, Gettysburg, Appomattox, Chancellorsville, Fredericksburg and Cold Harbor. Every time he faced Union forces, he was invariably outnumbered. He however, snatched victory on numerous occasions despite all the odds. Even when he could not win, he was able to retreat successfully. For the entire duration of war Lee was the best military commander of Confederation and the biggest threat the Union forces.

Surrender: In 1864, Union General Ulysses S Grant decided to pursue Lee’s army into Confederate territory and destroy it. He believed that with Lee’s defeat, entire Confederate war effort would crumble. Grant and Lee fought several battles in this offensive campaign. Lee repulsed all attacks successfully but Grant had him pushed back and Lee’s numbers were dwindling.

His luck finally ran out in April, 1865 and after being surrounded by Union troops, Lee and his men surrendered on April 9, 1865 in Appomattox Court House, Virginia. Grant treated Lee and his men well and after surrendering they were allowed to return home. Lee’s surrendered affected Confederate war effort adversely as expected by Grant and many other commanders also surrendered.

After the War: After the war Lee was not punished but lost the right to vote and some of his property. He served as president of Washington College from 1865 till his death. He also joined Democratic Party and opposed Radical Republicans’ efforts to impose punitive measures against Southern states. He advocated reconciliation between North and South. He died on October 12, 1870 because of pneumonia.

He is remembered as an honorable man and a brilliant soldier who commanded his men with courage and honor and turned the tide in many battles against a superior enemy. After his death his popularity in North as soared. In 1975, President Gerald ford restored Lee’s citizenship after documents were found that showed he had taken oath of loyalty to the Union.