Born in 1807 in Virginia, Robert E. Lee graduated from West Point in 1829. He returned from the Mexican War a highly decorated hero and served as superintendent of West Point for three years. In 1859 he commanded the Marines that defeated John Brown in his raid on Harpers Ferry, Virginia. With war near at hand, Lee resigned his commission, and joined the Confederate army in April of 1861. He assumed the command of what became the Army of Northern Virginia in June of 1862 and commanded it until the end of the war.
Lee utilized the defensive advantage of trench warfare and the ability to move his troops quickly from point-to-point along his lines, to hold Petersburg and Richmond for nine and a-half months in spite of the ever increasing odds against his army. With the Union victory at Five Forks, April 1, 1865, Lee's lines broke the next day. Seven days later he surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia to Gen. U. S. Grant at Appomattox Court House, Virginia.
Lee became president of Washington College at Lexington, Virginia after the war. As much as he had done to preserve the Confederacy, he is recognized for his efforts to help the post-war United States of America heal. He died in 1870 at the college which would rename itself Washington and Lee University in his honor.
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Last updated: February 26, 2015