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Robert E. Lee


Commanding Confederate General


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LEE, Robert Edward, soldier, born in Stratford, Westmoreland County, Virginia, 19 Jan., 1807; died in Lexington, Virginia, 12 Oct., 1870. He was the son of the Revolutionary general Henry Lee (q. v.), known as " Light-Horse Harry," was graduated from the U. S. military academy at West Point in 1829, ranking second in a class of forty-six, and was commissioned as a 2d lieutenant in the engineers. 

At the beginning of the Mexican war he was assigned to duty as chief engineer of the army under General Wool, his rank being that of captain. His abilities as an engineer, and his conduct as a soldier, won the special admiration of General Scott, who attributed the fall of Vera Cruz to his skill, and repeatedly singled him out for commendation. Lee was thrice brevetted during the war, his last brevet to the rank of colonel being for services at the storming of Chapultepec. 

In 1852 he was assigned to the command of the military academy at West Point, where he remained for about three years. He brought great improvements in the academy, notably enlarging its course of study and bringing it to a rank equal to that of the best European military schools. In 1855 he was appointed lieutenant-colonel of the 2d regiment of cavalry, and assigned to duty on the Texan frontier, where he remained until near the beginning of the civil war, with the exception of an interval when, in 1859, he was ordered to Washington and placed in command of the force that was sent against John Brown at Harper's Ferry.

On 20 April, 1861, three days after the Virginia convention adopted an ordinance of secession, he resigned his commission, in obedience to his conscientious conviction that he was bound by the act of his state. His only authenticated expression of opinion and sentiment on the subject of secession is found in the following passage from a letter written at the time of his resignation to his sister, the wife of an officer in the National army; "We are now in a state of war which will yield to nothing. The whole south is in a state of revolution, into which Virginia, after a long struggle, has been drawn; and though I recognize no necessity for this state of things, and would have forborne and pleaded to the end for redress of grievances, real or supposed, yet in my own person I had to meet the question whether I should take part against my native state. With all my devotion to the Union, and the feeling of loyalty and duty of an American citizen, I have not been able to make up my mind to raise my hand against my relatives, my children, my home. I have therefore resigned my commission m the army, and, save in defense of my native state--with the sincere hope that my poor services may never be needed--I hope I may never be called upon to draw my sword."

Repairing to Richmond, he was made commander-in-chief of the Virginia state forces, and in May, 1861, when the Confederate government was removed from Montgomery to Richmond, he was appointed a full general under that government. During the early months of the war he served inconspicuously in the western part of Virginia. In the autumn Lee was sent to the coast of South Carolina, where he planned, and in part constructed, the defensive lines that successfully resisted all efforts directed against them until the very end of the war. He was ordered to Richmond, and on 13 March, 1862, assigned to duty "under the direction of the president," and "charged with the conduct of military operations in the armies of the Confederacy."

The campaign of the preceding year in Virginia had embraced but one battle of importance, that of Bull Run or Manassas, and the Confederate success there had not been followed by anything more active than an advance to Centreville and Fairfax Court House, with advanced posts on Mason's and Munson's hills. Meantime McClellan had been engaged in reorganizing the National army, and converting the raw levies into disciplined troops. When he was finally ready to advance, the Confederates retired to the south side of the Rappahannock, and when McClellan transferred his base to Fort Monroe and advanced upon Richmond by way of the peninsula, General Joseph E. Johnston removed his army to Williamsburg, leaving Jackson's division in the valley and Ewell's on the line of the Rappahannock. 

Johnston fell back in May to make his stand in defense of Richmond immediately in front of the town. McClellan advanced to a line near the city with his army of more than 100,000 men, and, under the mistaken impression that Johnston's force outnumbered his own, waited for McDowell, who was advancing with 40,000 men from the neighborhood of Fredericksburg to join him. To prevent the coming of this re-enforcement, Lee ordered Ewell to join Jackson, and directed the latter to attack Banks in the valley of the Shenandoah, drive him across the Potomac, and thus seem to threaten Washington city. Jackson executed the task assigned him with such celerity and success as to cause serious apprehension in Washington. McDowell was recalled, and the re-enforcement of McClellan was prevented. The latter now established himself on the Chickahominy, with a part of his army thrown across that stream. A flood came at the end of May, and, believing that the swollen river effectually isolated this force, General Johnston attacked it on 31 May, hoping to crush it before assistance could reach it from the northern side of the river. Thus resulted the battle of Seven Pines, or Fair Oaks, in which Johnston was seriously wounded and rendered unfit for further service for a time. McClellan fortified his lines, his left wing lying near White Oak Swamp, on the south of the Chickahominy, his right extending up the river to Mechanicsville, and his depot being at the White House on the York river railroad and the Pamunkey River.

Now, for the first time, General Lee had direct command of a great army confronting an enemy strongly posted, and his capacity as a strategist 'and commander was first demonstrated in that bloody and brilliant, but only in part successful, series of maneuvers and contests known as "the seven days' battle." He determined to adopt that offensive defense which was always his favorite method. Instead of awaiting McClellan's attack, he resolved to defend Richmond by dislodging the foe that threatened it. His plan was secretly to bring Jackson's force to his aid, and, while holding McClellan in check on the south side of the river with a part of his force securely entrenched, to transfer the rest of it to the north side, turn the enemy's flank, and move down the river in his rear, threatening his communications and compelling him to quit his entrenchments for a battle in the open, or to abandon his position altogether and retreat. The first necessity was to fortify the lines south of the river, and when that was done, General J. E. B. Stuart, with a cavalry column, was sent to march around McClellan's position, ascertain the condition of the roads in his rear, and gather such other information as was needed.

Jackson, with his entire force, was brought to Ashland, on the Fredericksburg railroad, from which point he was to move on 25 June to the neighborhood of Atlee's Station, and turn the enemy's positions at Mechanicsville and Beaver Dam on the next day. A. P. Hill's division was to cross the river at Meadow Bridge as soon as Jackson's movement should uncover it, and Longstreet and D. H. Hill were to cross in their turn when the passage should be clear. There was a delay of one day in Jackson's movement, however, so that he did not turn the position at Beaver Dam until the 27th. A. P. Hill, after waiting until the afternoon of the 26th for the movement of Jackson to accomplish the intended purpose, pushed across the river at Meadow Bridge and drove out the force that occupied Mechanicsville. Longstreet and D. H. Hill also crossed, and the next morning the works at Beaver Dam were turned and the Confederates pushed forward in their march down the river, Jackson in advance with D. H. Hill for support, while Longstreet and A. P. Hill were held in reserve, and upon the right, to attack McClellan in flank and rear, should he seriously oppose Jackson's advance toward the York river railroad. There was some miscarriage of plans, due to a mistake in Jackson's movement, and, in consequence, Longstreet and Hill encountered the right wing of McClellan's force in a strong position near Gaines's Mills before the advance under Jackson was engaged at all. 

The resistance of the National troops was stubborn, and it was not until after Jackson came up and joined in the conflict that the position was forced. The National troops suffered severely, and were finally driven across the river. Lee now commanded McClellan's communications, and no course was open to the National general but to save his army by a retreat to the James river, during which severe battles were fought at Savage's Station and Frazier's Farm. The series of maneuvers and battles ended in a fierce conflict at Malvern Hill, where the Confederates suffered terribly in a series of partial and ill-directed assaults upon a strong position taken by the retreating foe. The bloody repulses thus inflicted consoled the retreating army somewhat for their disaster, but could not repair the loss of position already suffered or do more than delay the retreat. The operations outlined above had brought McClellan's movement against Richmond to naught, and their moral effect was very great; but Lee was convinced that he had had and lost an opportunity to compel the actual surrender of his enemy, though stronger than himself in numbers, and regarded McClellan's escape upon any terms as a partial failure of his plans, due to accidental miscarriages. 

Having driven McClellan from his position in front of Richmond, and having thus raised what was in effect the siege of that city, General Lee's desire was to transfer the scene of operations to a distance from the Confederate capital, and thus relieve the depression of the southern people which had followed the general falling back of their armies and the disasters sustained in the west. McClellan lay at Harrison's Landing, below Richmond, with an army that was still strong, and while the Confederate capital was no longer in immediate danger, the withdrawal of the army defending it would invite attack and capture unless McClellan's withdrawal at the same time could be forced. For effecting that, Lee calculated upon the apparently excessive concern felt at the north for the safety of Washington. If he could so dispose of his forces as to put Washington in actual
or seeming danger, he was confident that McClellan's army would be speedily recalled. 

In the mean time, General John Pope, in command of another National army, had advanced by way of the Orange and Alexandria railroad, with the purpose of effecting a junction with McClellan and it was necessary to meet the danger from that quarter without exposing Richmond, as already explained; for if the people of the north laid excessive stress upon the preservation of Washington from capture, the people of the south held Richmond in a like sentimental regard. Jackson was ordered, on 13 July, to Gordonsville with his own and Ewell's divisions, and he moved thence to Orange Court House, where A. P. Hill was ordered to join him at the end of the month. With this force Jackson crossed the Rapidan, attacked a part of Pope's army at Cedar Mountain on 9 Aug., and gained an advantage, holding the ground until Pope advanced in force two days later, when he retired to the south of the river. 

Lee now hurried troops forward as rapidly as possible, and on 14 Aug. took personal  command on the Rapidan. His force was slightly superior to Pope's, and, as the National commander seemed at that time unaware of the presence of the main body of the Confederate army, Lee hoped, by a prompt attack, to take him somewhat unprepared. The movement was planned for 19 Aug., but there was a delay of a day, and in the mean time Pope had become aware of his danger and withdrawn behind the Rappahannock, where he had posted his army in a strong position to oppose a crossing. Finding the advantage of position to be with the enemy, Lee moved up the river, Pope keeping pace with him until a point near Warrenton Springs was reached. There Lee halted and made a demonstration as if to cross, on 24 Aug., while Jackson, crossing about eight miles above, made a rapid march around Bull Run Mountain and through Thoroughfare Gap, to gain the enemy's rear. The movement was completely successful, and on the 26th Jackson reached Manassas Junction, capturing the supply depots there. As soon as Pope discovered the movement he withdrew to protect his communications. Longstreet at once marched to join Jackson, following the same route and effecting a junction on the morning of 29 Aug., on the same field on which the first battle of Manassas or Bull Run was fought in 1861. Pope's army, re-enforced from McClellan's, was in position, and battle was joined that afternoon. The National assaults upon Lee's lines on that day and the next were determined but unsuccessful, and on 30 Aug. the Confederates succeeded in driving their enemy across Bull Run to Centreville. Lee, re-enforced, turned the position on 1 Sept., and Pope retired toward Washington.

The way was now clear for the further offensive operations that Lee contemplated. The transfer of McClellan's invading force to Washington had been made imperative, and Lee's army, encouraged by success, was again filled with that confidence in itself and its leader which alone can make an army a fit tool with which to undertake aggressive enterprises. He determined to transfer the scene of operations to the enemy's territory. The plan involved the practical abandonment of his communications so far as the means of subsisting his army was concerned, but the region into which he planned to march was rich in food and forage, and, with the aid of his active cavalry under Stuart, he trusted to his ability to live upon the country. The movement was begun at once, and on 5 Sept. the army, 45.000 strong, crossed the Potomac and took up a position near Frederick, Md., from which it might move at will against Washington or Baltimore or invade Pennsylvania. A strong garrison of National troops still held Harper's Ferry, to Lee's surprise and somewhat to the disturbance of his plans, as it was necessary for him to have the route to the valley of Virginia open to his ammunition trains. On 10 Sept., therefore, he directed Jackson to return to the south side of the river and advance upon Harper's Ferry from the direction of Martinsburg while McLaws should seize Maryland Heights, Walker hold Loudon Heights, and D. H. Hill post himself at Boonsboro' Pass to prevent the escape of the garrison. Having made these dispositions, Lee moved to Hagerstown to collect subsistence and to await the capture of Harper's Ferry by his lieutenant, after which the several divisions were to unite at Boonsboro' or Sharpsburg, as occasion should determine.

McClellan was at this time advancing at the head of the National army from Washington, but with unusual deliberation. By one of those mishaps which play so large a part in military operations, a copy of Lee's order, giving minute details of his dispositions and plans, fell into McClellan's hands, and that general, thus fully apprised of the exact whereabouts of every subdivision of Lee's temporarily scattered forces, made haste to take advantage of his adversary's unprepared situation. Making a rapid march, on 14 Sept. he fell upon D. H. Hill's division at Boonsboro' Pass. Hill resisted stubbornly and held his ground until assistance arrived. During the night Lee withdrew to Sharpsburg, where news soon reached him of the surrender of Harper's Ferry with about 11,000 men and all its stores. By the 16th the army was again united, except that A. P. Hill's division had remained at Harper's Ferry to care for the prisoners and stores. Meantime McClellan had reached Sharpsburg also, and on the 17th battle was joined. (For an account of tile battle, see McClellan.) 

Neither side having gained a decisive victory, neither was disposed to renew the contest on the lath, and the day was passed in inactivity. During the night following Lee re-crossed the Potomac and marched to the neighborhood of Winchester, where he remained until late in October, the enemy also remaining inactive until that time, when Lee retired to the line of the Rappahannock. The conflict at Sharpsburg or Antietam is called a drawn battle, and it was such if we consider only the immediate result. Neither army overcame the other or gained a decisive advantage, and neither was in condition, at the end of the affair, to make effective pursuit should the other retire. But McClellan had had the best of it in the fight, and Lee's invasion of northern territory was brought to an end; the battle was thus in effect a victory for the National arms. On the other hand, if we include tile capture of the garrison at Harper's Ferry, Lee had inflicted greater loss upon the enemy than he had himself suffered. So far as the definite objects with which he had undertaken the campaign were concerned, it had been successful. Richmond had been relieved of present danger. The moral situation had been reversed for a time. From standing on the defensive, and hard pressed in front of their own capital, the Confederates had been able to march into their enemy's country, overthrowing an army on their way, and to put the National capital upon its defense. The spirits of the southern army and people were revived, and from that time until the last hour of the war the confidence of both in the skill of their commander was implicit and unquestioning. Lee was thenceforth their reliance and the supreme object of their devotion.

General Burnside, having succeeded McClellan in command of the National army, adopted a new plan of campaign that should threaten Richmond by an advance over a short line, and at the same time keep Washington always covered. He made his base upon the Potomac at Acquia Creek. and planned to cross the Rappahannock at Fredericksburg. The head of his column reached Falmouth, opposite Fredericksburg, on 17 Nov. Lee moved promptly to meet this new advance, and occupied a line of hills in rear of the town, which commanded the plain below and afforded excellent conditions for defense. Here he posted about half his army, under Longstreet, while D. H.. Hill was at Port Royal, twenty miles below, and Jackson lay between, prepared to support either wing that might be attacked. Lee's total force numbered about 80,000 men of all arms; Burnside's about 120,000, of whom 100,000 were thrown across the river on the day of the battle.

The crossing was made on 12 Dec. in two columns, the one at Fredericksburg and the other three miles below. No serious opposition was made to the crossing, it being Lee's plan to await attack in his strong position on the crests of the hills rather than risk an action in the plain below. Burnside spent the 12th in preparation, and did not advance to the assault until the next morning about ten o'clock. Two points of attack were chosen, one upon the Confederate right, the other upon the left. The attack upon the Confederate right was for a time successful, breaking through the first line of defense at a weak point, but it was quickly met and repelled by Jackson, who had hurried to the point of danger. The National troops were forced back and pressed almost to the river, where a heavy artillery fire checked Jackson's pursuit, and upon his return to the original line of defense the battle in that quarter ended in Confederate success, but with about equal losses to the two armies. 

On the other side of the field the assaults were repeated and determined, and resulted in much graver loss to the assailants and much less damage to the Confederates. The nature of the ground forbade all attempts to turn Lee's left, and the National troops had no choice but to make a direct advance upon Marye's Heights. Here Lee was strongly posted with artillery so placed as to enfilade the line of advance. A little in front of his main line, and on the side of the hill below, lay a sunken road, flanked by a stone wall running athwart the line of the National advance, and forming a thoroughly protected ditch. Into this road about 2,000 infantry had been thrown, and Burnside's columns, as they made their successive advances up a narrow field, swept by the artillery from above, came suddenly upon this concealed and well-protected force, and encountered a withering fire of musketry at short range, which swept them back. The nature of the obstacle was not discovered by the National commanders, and assault after assault was made, always with the same result, until the approach of night put an end to the conflict. The next day Lee waited for the renewal of the assault, which he had repelled with a comparatively small part of his force, but, although Burnside remained on the Confederate side of the river, he made no further attempt to force his adversary's position. He had lost nearly 13,000 men, while Lee's loss was but a little more than 5,000. The National army re-crossed the river on the 15th, and military operations were suspended for the winter. (For a further account of this battle, see BURNSIDE, AMBROSE EVERETT.)

General Joseph Hooker, who succeeded Burnside in command of the Army of the Potomac, planned a spring campaign, the purpose of which was to force Lee out of his entrenched position at Fredericksburg and overcome him in the field. His plan of operations was to throw a strong detachment across the river below Fredericksburg, threatening an assault upon the works there, while with the main body of his army he should cross the river into the region known as the Wilderness above the Confederate position, thus compelling Lee to move out of his entrenchments and march to meet his advance at Chancellorsville. Lee's army had been weakened by detachments to 57,000 men, while Hooker's strength was about 120,000, and the National commander hoped to compel the further division of his adversary's force by occupying a part of it at Fredericksburg. The plan was admirably conceived, and no operation of the war so severely tested the skill of Lee or so illustrated his character as did the brief campaign that followed.

About the end of April, 1863, the plan was put in operation. Sedgwick, with 30,000 men, crossed below Fredericksburg, while Hooker, with the main body, crossed at the fords above and marched through the Wilderness to gain a position upon the Confederate flank. Leaving about 9,000 men in the works at Fredericksburg, Lee marched on 1 May to meet Hooker's advance, which he encountered near Chancellorsville. He attacked the advance force at once, and it retired upon the main body, which occupied a strong position and seemed disposed to act upon the defensive. Notwithstanding the great inferiority of his force (48,000 men), Lee decided upon the hazardous experiment of dividing it. Retaining about 12,000 or 14,000 men with whom to make a demonstration in front, he sent Jackson with the remainder of the army to march around Hooker's right flank and strike him in the rear. The maneuver was extremely hazardous, but was made necessary by the situation, and was fully justified by its success. Jackson made his march without discovery of his purpose, and, late in the afternoon of 2 May, came upon Hooker's rear with a suddenness and determination that threw a part of the National army into confusion and gave the Confederates a great advantage. 

The contest lasted until after nightfall, and the armies lay upon their arms throughout the night. Jackson having received a mortal wound from the fire of his own men, the command of his force devolved upon Stuart, who renewed the attack early next day and pressed it with vigor until about ten o'clock, when a junction was formed with the troops under Lee, operating from in front. The whole line then advanced with great impetuosity, under the immediate command of General Lee. and the enemy was driven with great loss from the field, retiring to the works that defended the river crossings.  Meantime Sedgwick had carried the position at Fredericksburg, and was advancing on Lee's right flank. He had reached a point within six miles of Chancellorsville before forces detached for the purpose could check his advance. 

On the next day Early came up, and Lee succeeded in driving Sedgwick across the river. A storm interfered with plans for pressing Hooker's retreat, and by the 6th he had withdrawn completely from the southern side of the river, and was resuming his position opposite Fredericksburg. Lee also returned to his works, facing the enemy, with the river between. It was now incumbent upon General Lee to determine, so far as the matter was within his control, where and how the campaign of the approaching summer should be carried on. his policy was in a general sense defensive, but it was open to him to choose between a rigid adherence to that policy and the adoption of offensive measures with a defensive intent. He wished to avoid the depressing moral effect of a second near approach of the enemy to Richmond, and, notwithstanding the inferiority of his force to that which he was likely to encounter, he resolved to risk another attempt to transfer operations to northern soil.

His army now consisted of three corps, under Longstreet, Ewell, and A. P. Hill. Early in June Ewell was sent into the valley of Virginia with orders to drive out General Milroy's small  force and advance toward the Potomac. As soon as he had cleared the lower valley, Longstreet took up his march, moving northward east of the Blue Ridge, and, in exact fulfillment of General Bee's expectation, Hooker withdrew from in front of Fredericksburg and retired to cover and defend Washington, establishing his army south of the Potomac, near Leesburg, to await the further development of his adversary's plans. A.P. Hill now followed Ewell's line of march, and Longstreet also passed into the valley. Ewell had crossed the Potomac, and Lee followed with the other two corps, arriving at Chambersburg on 27 June, Ewell being then at Carlisle. 

Stuart, in command of the cavalry, had been left to observe the enemy, with orders to cross the river and place himself on Ewell's right as soon as possible after the National army should have left Virginia. Some discretion was given to him, however, and in the exercise of it he made a successful march around the National army, but meantime left Lee without cavalry in an enemy's country, and without that information of the enemy's movements which was indispensable to the wise ordering of his own. Moreover, Stuart's absence misled Lee. Confident that his cavalry commander, who was a marvel of alertness and promptitude, would not delay to join him after the passage of the river by the adversary, Lee argued from his absence that the main body of the enemy was still south of the river, and perhaps planning a counter-operation against Richmond, while in fact the entire army under Meade was hastening toward Gettysburg, where Lee encountered its advance on 1 July, unexpectedly and under a complete misapprehension as to its strength, which constituted Lee's advance, met the enemy first, and was directed to ascertain his strength, with orders to avoid a general engagement if he should find anything more than cavalry present. He then undertook to feel of the force in his front, and, as it consisted of infantry and artillery in large bodies, he was soon hotly engaged in spite of his endeavor to confine his operation to a reconnaissance. When Lee arrived on the field, it was evident that a general engagement was not to be avoided, and he ordered up such re-enforcements as were at hand, at the same time sending directions for the remainder of his forces to hasten forward. Two divisions of Hill's corps and two of Ewell's were brought into action, and during the afternoon, after a sharp contest, the enemy was driven to a position south of the town, where he occupied a line of hills and awaited a renewal of the attack. .

In the absence of his cavalry, Lee was without any other information as to the strength or the purposes of his enemy than that which he could get from the prisoners taken, from whom he learned that Meade's entire army was approaching. It was important, if possible, to seize the position held by the enemy before further bodies of Meade's troops should arrive, as the line of hills afforded many advantages to the commander who could occupy it, and Lee directed Ewell to gain possession of it if possible, leaving him certain discretion, however, in the exercise of which Ewell delayed the attempt, to await the arrival of his remaining division, and so the opportunity was lost. It was Lee's intention to attack with his whole available force on the morning of the 2d, but it was not until late in the afternoon that Longstreet, whose troops had been some miles in the rear, was ready to bear his important part in the assault, and in the mean time the greater part of Meade's force had arrived and taken position. The assault was made at four o'clock, with Ewell on the left, Hill in the centre, and Longstreet on the right. The plan was for Longstreet to carry the position occupied by the enemy's left, Ewell and Hill making demonstrations on the left and centre, but converting their operations into a real attack should it appear that troops from their front were withdrawn to aid in opposing Longstreet. This was done, and a part of the enemy's works was carried by the Confederate left, but relinquished because of Rhodes's inability to render support to Early as promptly as had been intended. Meantime Longstreet had forced back the enemy's left for some distance, and gained a favorable position for further operations. The day came to an end with no decisive result, but Lee was encouraged to believe that by a carefully concerted assault on the next day he might win a victory that would go far to decide the issue of the war in favor of the Confederates, or at any rate to compensate for the continued disasters suffered by the Confederate arms in the west, and perhaps compel the withdrawal of the National forces from that quarter for the defense of the middle and eastern states. The value of such a victory, if he could achieve it, would be incalculable, and, as Longstreet has declared, the army under Lee's command at that time "was in condition to undertake anything." 

It was therefore decided to make a supreme effort on the next day to carry the enemy's position and put him to rout. Longstreet, strengthened by three brigades under Pickett, and additionally re-enforced from Hill's corps, was to make the main assault upon the enemy's right, while Ewell should attack his left and Hill menace his centre. There was some slight miscarriage in preparation, however, which resulted in Ewell's becoming engaged before Longstreet advanced to the assault. Moreover, for reasons that have since been the subject of somewhat acrimonious controversy, and the discussion of which would be manifestly improper in this place, Longstreet's attack was not made with his entire force, as had been intended; and although by that charge, which has become historically famous as perhaps the most brilliant feat of arms performed by Confederates on any field, Pickett's division succeeded in carrying the hill in their front and entering the enemy's lines, it was left without adequate support and was quickly hurled back, broken, and almost annihilated. This in effect ended the battle of Gettysburg. As at Antietam, so on this field, no decisive victory had been won by either army, but Lee's supreme effort had ended in a repulse, and the advantage rested with the National arms. "It is with an invading army as with an insurrection: an indecisive action is equivalent to a defeat." Lee was not driven from the field, and his army was still unbroken; but he had failed to overthrow his adversary, and his project of successful invasion of tile enemy's country was necessarily at an end. He tarried a day in inactivity, and then retired without, serious molestation to Virginia, whither Meade followed. The two armies having returned to the line of the Rapidan, and neither being disposed to undertake active operations, the campaign of 1863 ended in August.

 The campaign of 1864 was begun by the advance of the National army under General Grant, who crossed the Rapidan on 4 May with about 120,000 men, including non-combatants, teamsters, etc. Lee's force at that time was about 66,000 men, not including commissioned officers, teamsters, and other non-combatants, but he determined to attack his adversary as quickly as possible. There followed a succession of stubbornly contested battles and movements by flank from the Wilderness, where the adversaries first met, by way of Spottsylvania Court-House and Cold Harbor, to Petersburg, for an account of which, and of the siege of Petersburg, see GRANT, ULYSSES S. 

Grant sat down before Petersburg about the middle of June, and prepared for a patient siege of that place and of Richmond, to which it afforded a key. By extending his lines farther and farther to the south, and pressing his left forward, he forced Lee to stretch his own correspondingly, until they were drawn out to dangerous tenuity, there being no source from which the Confederate commander could draw re-enforcements, while his already scant force was slowly wasting away under the operations of the siege. Grant was gradually enveloping the position, and pushing back the Confederate right, so as to secure the lines of railway leading to the south, and it was manifestly only a question of time when Petersburg, and Richmond with it, must fall into the hands of the enemy. By all military considerations it was the part of wisdom for the Confederates to withdraw from the obviously untenable position while there was yet opportunity for them to retire to the line of the Roanoke, and there is the best authority for saying that if he had been free to determine the matter for himself, Lee would have abandoned Richmond many weeks before the date of its actual fall, and would have endeavored, by concentration, to win important advantages in the field, where strategy, celerity of movement, and advantages of position might offset disparity of forces. But the Confederate government had decided upon the policy of holding Richmond at all hazards, and Lee was bound by its decision. The end of his power of resistance in that false position came early in the spring of 1865. Grant broke through his defenses, south of Petersburg, and compelled the hasty evacuation of the entire Richmond line on 2 April. Meantime Sherman had successfully transferred his base from northern Georgia to Savannah, and was following Johnston in his retreat toward North Carolina and Virginia. Lee made an ineffectual attempt to retreat and form a junction with Johnston somewhere south of the Roanoke ; but the head of Grant's column was so far in advance on his left as to be able to beat him back toward the upper James river, capturing a large portion of his force, and the small remnant, in a state of actual starvation, was surrendered on 9 April, at Appomattox Court-House, its total strength being fewer than 10,000 men.

The war being at an end, Lee withdrew at once from public affairs, betaking himself to the work of a simple citizen, not morosely, or in sullen vexation of spirit, but manfully, and with a firm conviction of duty. He frankly accepted the result, and used his great influence for the restoration of friendly relations between the lately warring sections, for the prompt return of his soldiers to peaceful pursuits, and for the turning of their devotion to the southern cause into a patriotic pride of American citizenship. He became president of Washington College, at Lexington, Va. (now Washington and Lee university), and passed the remainder of his life in earnest work as an educator of youth. Physically, intellectually, and morally, Lee was a man of large proportions and unusual symmetry. Whether or not he possessed the highest order of genius, he had a mind of large grasp, great vigor and activity, and perfect self-possession. He was modest in his estimate of himself, but not lacking in that self-confidence which gives strength. His mind was pure, and his character upright in an eminent degree. His ruling characteristic was an inflexible devotion to duty, as he understood it, accompanied by a perfect readiness to make any and every sacrifice of self that ,night be required of him by circumstance. In manner he was dignified, courteous, and perfectly simple in temper he was calm, with the placidity of strength that is accustomed to rigid self-control. He was a type of perfectly healthy manhood, in which body and mind are equally under the control of clearly defined conceptions of right and duty. Descended from men who had won distinction by worth, and allied to others of like character, he was deeply imbued with a sense of his obligation to live and act in all things worthily. As a military commander he had thorough knowledge of the art of war, and large ability in its practice. His combinations were sound, and where opportunity permitted, brilliant, and his courage in undertaking great enterprises with scantily adequate means was supported by great skill in the effective employment of such means as were at his command. The tasks he set himself were almost uniformly such as a man of smaller courage would have shrunk from, and a man of less ability would have undertaken only to meet disaster. His military problem was so to employ an inferior force as to baffle the designs of an enemy possessed of a superior one. His great strength lay in that form of defense which involves the employment of offensive maneuvers as a means of choosing the times, places, and conditions of conflict. A military critic has said that he lacked the gift to seize upon the right moment for converting a successful defense into a successful attack, and the judgment appears to be in some measure sound. 

In the seven days' fight around Richmond his success was rendered much less complete than it apparently ought to have been by his failure so to handle his force as to bring its full strength to bear upon his adversary's retreating column at the critical moment. At Fredericksburg he seems to have put aside an opportunity to crush the enemy whom he had repelled, when he neglected to press Burnside on the river bank, and permitted him to withdraw to the other side unmolested. After his victory at Chaneellorsville a greater readiness to press his retreating foe would have promised results that for lack of that readiness were not achieved. A critical study of his campaigns seems also to show that he erred in giving too much discretion to his lieutenants at critical junctures, when his own fuller knowledge of the entire situation and plan of battle or campaign should have been an absolutely controlling force. It is no reflection upon those lieutenants to say that they did not always make the wisest or most fortunate use of the discretion thus given to them, for with their less complete information concerning matters not immediately within their purview, their decisions rested, of necessity, upon an inadequate knowledge of the conditions of the problem presented. Instances of the kind to which we refer are found in Stuart's absence with the cavalry during all that part of t, he Gettysburg campaign which preceded the battle, and in Ewell's failure to seize the strong position at Gettysburg while it was still possible to do so. In both these eases Lee directed the doing of that which wisdom dictated; in both he left a large discretion to his lieutenant, in the conscientious exercise of which an opportunity was lost.

Three days after General Lee's death his remains were buried beneath the chapel of the university at Lexington. in accordance with his request, no funeral oration was pronounced. The corner-stone of a monument to his memory was laid in Richmond, Va., on 27 Oet., 1887. There is a recumbent statue by Valentine over his grave, and a bronze statue on a column in New Orleans. A portrait of him was painted from life by John Elder, for the commonwealth of Virginia, which is now in the senate chamber at Richmond; another by Elder, for the city of Savannah, is in the council chamber of that city ; and still another is at the University of Virginia. The vignette is copied from an early portrait, while the steel engraving is from a photograph taken in Richmond, during the last year of the war. General Lee edited, with a memoir, a new edition of his father's "Memoirs of the Wars of the Southern Department of the United States" (New York, 1869). See "Life and Campaigns of Robert Edward Lee," by E. Lee Childe (London, 1875);"Life of Robert E. Lee," by John Esten Cooke (New York, 1871) ; "Life and Times of Robert E. Lee," by Edward A. Pollard (1871); "Personal Reminiscences of Robert E. Lee," by John W. Jones (1874); "Four Years with Gen. Lee," by Walter H. Taylor (1877)" and "5"lemoirs of Robert E. Lee," by General A. L. Long (1886). A life of General Lee is now (1887) in preparation by Col. Charles Marshall, aide - decamp on his staff, 1861-'5, to whom the
original papers of General Lee have been committed by the family.


Edited Appleton's American Image Copyright© 2001 by VirtualologyTM


Mary Randolph Custis Lee, born at, Arlington House, Alexandria co., Va., in 1806; died in Lexington, Va., 6 Nov., 1873, was the only daughter of George Washington Parke Custis, the adopted son of Washington, and the grandson of his wife. In June, 1831, she married Robert E. Lee, by which event he came into possession of Arlington, on the Potomac river, and of the White House, on the Pamunkey. Mrs. Lee had strong intellectual powers, and persistently favored the Confederate cause. She was in Richmond during the civil war, and afterward accompanied her husband to Lexington, where she resided until her death. 

Lee's eldest son, George Washington Custis Lee, soldier, born at Arlington, Va., 16 Sept., 1832, was graduated at the U. S. military academy in 1854 at the head of his class. He was commissioned 2d lieutenant of engineers and assigned to the engineer bureau at Washington. In the spring" of 1855 he was assigned to duty on Amelia island, Fla., where he was engaged in constructing the fort at the mouth of St. Mary's river, and in the autumn of 1857 was ordered to San Francisco, Cal., fox' the construction of the works at Fort Point. In October, 1859, he was promoted 1st lieutenant and ordered to the engineer bureau at Washington, where he remained until the beginning of the civil war, when he resigned his commission and entered the Confederate service. He was commissioned major of engineers of the provisional army of Virginia, 10 May, 1861, and on 1 July was appointed captain in the Confederate corps of engineers. He located and constructed the fortifications around Richmond, and on 31 Aug., 1861, was appointed aide-de-camp to Jefferson Davis, with the rank of colonel of cavalry. 

On 25 June, 1863, he was commissioned brigadier-general and assigned to a brigade organized for local defense around Richmond. In the autumn of 1864 he was commissioned major-general and given the command of a division in the Army of Northern Virginia, which he led bravely and skillfully till he was captured at Sailor's Creek. In October, 1865, he became professor of military and civil engineering and applied mechanics in Virginia military institute, and in February, 1871. succeeded his father as president of Washington college (now Washington and Lee university). Tulane university gave him the degree of LL.D. in 1887.--

His brother, William Henry Fitzhugh Lee, soldier, second son of Robert E. Lee, born at Arlington, Va., 31 May, 1837, was graduated at Harvard in 1857, and in the same year appointed 2d lieutenant in the 6th infantry, U. S. army, and served in the Utah campaign of General Albert Sidney Johnston, and afterward in California. Early in 1859 he resigned his commission and took charge of his farm, the historic White House, on the Pamunkey. In the spring of 1861 he raised a tawdry company for the Confederate service, was made captain, and was soon promoted major and made chief of cavalry to General Loring in the West Virginia campaign. In the winter of 1861-'2 he was ordered to Fredericksburg and was made lieutenant-colonel. In the spring of 1862 he was made colonel, and not long afterward was attached to the brigade of General J. E. B. Stuart, in most of whose campaigns he participated. On 3 Oct., 1862, he was made brigadier-general, to date from 15 Sept. At Brandy Station, 9 June, 1863, he was severely wounded, and was afterward captured by a raiding party and carried to Fortress Monroe, where he was held for some time as a hostage. In the early spring of 1864 he was exchanged, on 23 April was promoted major-general of cavalry, and led his division in the fights from the Rapidan to Appomattox, where he surrendered. He soon went to work at the White House, rebuilding the dwelling, and became a farmer. For some years he was president of the Virginia agricultural society, in 1875 he was elected to the state senate, and in 1886 to congress. --

Robert Edward's nephew, Fitzhugh Lee, soldier, b. in Clermont, Fairfax co., Va., 19 Nov., 1835, was
graduated at the U. S. military academy in 1856, and commissioned 2d lieutenant in the 2d cavalry. He was severely wounded in a fight with Indians, and in May, 1860, was ordered to report at West Point as instructor of cavalry. At the beginning of the civil war in 1861 he resigned his commission and entered the Confederate service. He was first placed on staff duty, and was adjutant-general of Ewell's brigade until September, 1861, when he was made lieutenant-colonel of the 1st Virginia cavalry, and later was promoted colonel, and he participated in all the campaigns of the Army of Northern Virginia. On 25 July, 1862, he was made brigadier-general, and on 3 Sept., 1863, Major-general. In the battle of Winchester, 19 Sept., 1864, three horses were shot under him, and he was disabled by a severe wound, which kept him from duty for several months. In March, 1865, he was put in command of the whole cavalry corps of the Army of Northern Virginia, and a month later he surrendered to General Meade at Farmville, after which he retired to his home in Stafford county. In 1874 he made a speech at Bunker Hill which attracted wide attention. In the winter and spring of 1882-'3 he made a tour through the southern states, in the interest of the Southern historical society. He was elected governor of Virginia in 1885.-- Edited Appleton's Cyclopedia American Biography Copyright© 2001 by VirtualologyTM

"It is well that war is so terrible--we would grow too fond of it."


Photo and Text by: National Statuary Hall


Born into a famous Virginia family on January 19, 1807, Robert E. Lee served his state with great devotion all his life. His family lived at Stratford and later Alexandria, Virginia. At the United States Military Academy he distinguished himself in both scholastics and martial exercises. He was adjutant of the corps and graduated second in the class of 1829. As a career officer, he served in posts in Georgia and Virginia and as commander of the light batteries, with General Scott, in the Mexican War. He served as superintendent of the U.S. Military Academy from 1848 to 1852. Although he was made lieutenant colonel of the Second Cavalry, family problems forced him into inactive duty for over two years. When the South seceded, Lee reluctantly resigned from the army, hoping to avoid participation in the war he deplored. However, a sense of duty to his state made him accept command of the Virginia forces. His successful strategy, his tactical skill, and the confidence of his troops earned him the respect of the Confederate leaders. President Jefferson Davis appointed him commander of the Army of Northern Virginia on April 1, 1862. The next three years demanded all Lee's strength until he was forced to surrender to General Ulysses S. Grant on April 9, 1865. Lee was paroled and accepted the presidency of Washington College (now Washington and Lee) in Lexington, Virginia. He served in that capacity from September 1865 until his death on October 12, 1870.



General Order No. 9, the Confederate surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia signed by General Robert E. Lee. Dated April 10, 1865.


HdQrs Army of No Va
10th April 1865

General Order                                                                                                                       
No 9

After four years of arduous service, marked by unsurpassed courage and fortitude, the Army of Northern Virginia has been compelled to yield to overwhelming numbers and resources.

I need not tell the brave survivors of so many hard fought battles who have remained steadfast to the last, that I have consented to this result from no distrust of them, But feeling that valor and devotion could accomplish nothing that could compensate for the loss that would have attended the continuance of the contest, I determined to avoid the useless sacrifice of those whose past services have endeared them to their countrymen.

By the terms of the agreement, Officers and men can return to their homes and remain until exchanged. You will take with you the satisfaction that proceeds from the consciousness of duty faithfully performed and I earnestly pray that a merciful God will extend to you His blessing and protection.

With an unceasing admiration of your constancy and devotion to your country, and a grateful remembrance of your kind and generous consideration of myself, I bid you all an affectionate farewell.

R E Lee

"Lee was distressed when news reached him that Virginia had adopted an Ordinance of Secession on April 17, 1861. He had supported preservation of the Union that his father and uncles had helped create and opposed slavery, but he remained loyal to his native state. He was at home at Arlington on April 20, 1861, when he made his decision to resign his commission in the U.S. Army. Two days later Lee left Arlington for Richmond to accept command of Virginia's military forces with the General Assembly's approval; he never returned to Arlington" - National Park Service at Arlington House

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