Robert E. Lee


Robert Edward Lee is considered one of the greatest generals in the history of the United States. Lee was opposed to many views of the south, including succession and slavery, yet his loyalty to his native state of Virginia forced him to fight for the south and refuse command of the Union armies during the Civil War. Because of this, he was respected by every man in America including Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses S. Grant. Robert Edward Lee was born to parents, Henry Lee of Leesylvania, and mother Ann Hill Carter of Shirley, in Stratford Hall near Montross, Virginia, on January 19, 1807. He grew up with a great love for country living and his state, which would be instilled in him for the rest of his life. He was a very serious boy and spent many hours in his father's library reading as many books as he could get his hands on. He loved to play with his friends, swim and hunt. Lee looked up to his father and always wanted to know what he was doing. George Washington and his father, "Light-Horse Harry Lee," were his two heroes and he wanted to be just like them when he grew up. In 1811 the Lee family moved to a larger home in Alexandria, Virginia. The next year his father received injuries in a Baltimore riot from which he never fully recovered and that also caused his leaving of Alexandria for a warmer climate. He died six years later at Cumberland Island, Georgia when Robert was only 12. Robert was forced to become the man of the family and cared for his mother and sisters because his father and elder brothers had left. Robert would stuff papers to block cracks in the carriage and go driving to help his mother get out during her failing health. Years later, when Robert left for West Point, Ann Lee wrote to a cousin, "How will I ever get on with out Robert, he is both a son and a daughter" ( www.stratfordhall.org/rel.htm 1). In 1825, at the age of 18, Lee entered the United States Military Academy at West Point where his classmates admired him for his brilliance, leadership, and love for his work. West Point was not his first choice for a school, but there was no money left to send him to Harvard because his older brother, Charles Carter, had used it for his own studies at Harvard. He graduated from the academy with high honors in 1829 and was ranked as Second Lieutenant in the Corps of Engineers at the age of 21. He headed for home at the age of 22 with $103.58 (Thomas 54). Lee served for seventeen months at Fort Pulaski on Cockspur Island, Georgia. In 1831 the army transferred Lee to Fort Monroe, Virginia, as assistant engineer. While he was stationed there, he married Mary Anna Randolph Custis, Martha Washington's great-granddaughter. They lived in her family home in Arlington on a hill overlooking Washington D. C.. They had seven children, three sons and four daughters. On September 16, 1832, Mary gave birth to George Washington Custis Lee. Later in 1835 they had their second child, Mary Curtis. They had five more children, William Henry Fitzgerald, Annie, Agnes, Robert and Mildred. Lee served as an assistant in the chief engineer's office in Washington from 1834 to 1837 and spent the summer of 1835 helping to lay out the boundary line between Ohio and Michigan. In 1837 he got his first important job as a First Lieutenant of engineers. He supervised the engineering work for St. Louis harbor and for the upper Mississippi and Missouri rivers. His work there earned him a promotion to Captain. In 1841 he was transferred to Fort Hamilton in New York harbor, where he took charge of building fortifications. When war broke out between the United States and Mexico in 1846, the army sent Lee to Texas to serve as assistant engineer under General John E. Wool. All his superior officers, including General Winfield Scott, were impressed with Lee. Early in the war, Lee supervised the construction of bridges for Wool's march toward the Mexican border. He then did excellent work on scouting trips. Lee later was helping General Winfield Scott plan a great battle. The Army was about to attack Vera Cruz, a large Mexican town on the sea. Soldiers fired huge