Robert E Lee was one of the most known Confederate soldiers. He rose to become a commander of the Confederate States Army and during the American Civil War, he led the Army of Northern Virginia. Because of how important he was, when he surrendered in 1865, it was marked as the end of the war.
Although he is viewed through different lenses in the history of America most especially as it regards to the civil war, in the American South, he is still seen as an important historical figure.
Who Was Robert E Lee?
There seemed to be a date with destiny on January 19, 1807, when Robert Edward Lee was born in Stratford, Westmoreland County, Virginia. Destiny seemed to have prepared him for becoming a soldier as he was born into the family of Ann Hill Carter and Henry Lee III, a Revolutionary War officer known as Major-General Henry “Light-Horse Harry” Lee III.
He was born as the fourth child of his parents. Although he had popular people from both sides of his family, his father endured a financial hardship that was as a result of some investments that failed, leaving him bankrupt. He was later made to serve in debtor’s prison and when he was done, he moved with his wife and five children, including Robert to Alexandria, Virginia.
By the time he was 11, his father died following an injury he sustained in Baltimore during a political riot. His mother was then left to take care of all their six children on her own.
Robert E. Lee went to Eastern View for his education and later Alexandria Academy. With the help of William Henry Fitzhugh, his relative, he was appointed to the United States Military Academy and he began his studies at the West Point in 1825. 4 years later, he became a second lieutenant. Unfortunately, just a month later, his mom died; that was in July 1829.
As a military man, he served in different places and during the US war with Mexico in 1846, he gave a good account of himself and was regarded as a hero. With the war over, he struggled to adjust to life outside the battlefield but that proved hard for him.
A slave insurrection would start in 1859 at Harper’s Ferry under the leadership of John Brown and Robert E Lee would be called upon to put it to rest. It took him nothing but an hour to bring it under control, having his name among those shortlisted to lead the Union Army in any case of war.
When Virginia voted for secession, he was caught between the southern states as he was opposed to a breakaway and the Union Army as he was against the war. President Abraham Lincoln called upon him to command the Union forces but he resigned and later agreed to command the Confederate forces instead.
Although he led them to some important victories, the forces against them were massive. With serious defeats also, he decided to surrender in 1965. Instead of being hanged as a traitor, he was forgiven by Lincoln and Gen. U.S. Grant.
Did He Own Slaves?
Needless to say, Robert E Lee was a rather complex man. A Christian and great soldier, he was not in support of slavery. After it was finally abolished, he revealed that it made him very happy.
On another side of the coin, on his own, he owned few slaves for close to 30 years and his family also held slaves. Nonetheless, when the trading of slaves and slavery was abolished, he was quick to let go of it since he always believed it was a political and moral evil.
Who Were His Children?
In 1831, Robert E Lee got married to Mary Anna Custis Lee who was Martha Custis Washington’s great-granddaughter from an earlier marriage before marrying the first president of the United States, George Washington.
In their marriage, Mary Anna and Lee had seven children – four girls and three boys. Their children are George Washington Custis Lee who was born in 1832 and died in 1913, William Henry Fitzhugh Lee (Rooney Lee) who lived from 1837 to 1891, and Robert E. Lee Jr. who lived from 1843 to 1914. Others are Eleanor Agnes Lee, Anne Carter Lee, Mildred Childe Lee, and Mary Custis Lee.
Facts To Know About Robert E Lee
1. Robert E Lee was a unifying factor after the war
Just as he was torn between the North and South before the war, Lee was very important after the civil war as one of the strongest voices for unifying the country.
2. Lee received pardon 110 years after his surrender
Although it was in 1865 that he surrendered, it was until 1975 that he was pardoned by President Gerald Ford. It was believed that President Andrew Johnson had refused to pardon him because his application was not complete with an oath missing but was found many years later. Nonetheless, it was later claimed that President Johnson deliberately chose not to pardon him and it was not because of the oath.
3. He died in 1870
Robert E Lee died in Lexington, Virginia, on October 12, 1870, from pneumonia. Two weeks before then, he suffered a stroke.
4. Robert E Lee was buried without shoes
After he died, it was hard getting a casket for him because the weather was in very bad shape. Three caskets were ordered by an Undertaker from Richmond which came to Lexington but as a result of flooding, they were washed away. One was later recovered but it was a little bit short for him, so he was buried without shoes at Washington and Lee University, underneath Lee Chapel.