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General Lee Essay, Research Paper

Robert E. Lee was born on January 19, 1807 in Stafford, Virginia.

The son of Lighthorse Harry Lee and was educated at the U.S. Military


In 1829 he graduated second in his class receiving a commission as

second lieutenant in 1836 and captain in 1838. He distinguished himself in

the Mexican War and was wounded in the storming of Chapultepec in 1847;

for his meritorious service he received his third promotion in rank.

He became superintendent of the U.S. Military Academy and later

appointed colonel of calvery. He was in command of the Department of

Texas in 1860 and early the following year was summoned to Washington,

D.C., when war between the states seemed imminent.

President Abraham Lincoln offered him the field of command of the

Union forces but Lee refused. On April, 20 when Virginia succeeded from

the Union, he submitted his resignation of the U.S. Army.

On April 23 he became commander in chief of the military and naval

forces of Virginia. For a year he was military adviser to Jefferson Davis,

president of the Confederate States of America, and was then placed in

command of the Army in northern Virginia.

In February 1865 Lee was made commander in chief of all

Confederate armies; two months later the war was virtually ended by his

surrender to General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Court House.

The masterly strategy of Lee was overcome only by the superior

resources and troop strength of the Union. His campaigns are almost

universally studied in military schools as models of strategy and tactics, He

had a capacity for anticipating the actions of his opponents and for

comprehending their weaknesses.

He made skillful use of interior lines of communication and kept a

convex front toward the enemy so that his reinforcements, transfers, and

supplies could reach their destination over short, direct routes. His greatest

contribution to military practice however was his use of field fortifications as

aids to maneuvering.

He recognized that a small body of soldiers protected by

entrenchments can hold an enemy force of many times their number, while

the main body outflanks the enemy attacks a smaller force elsewhere. In his

application of this principle Lee was years ahead of his time; the tactic was

not fully understood or generally adopted until the 20th century.

He applied for but was never granted the official postwar amnesty. He

accepted the presidency of Washington College, now Washington and Lee

University. In the fall of 1865 within a few years it had become and

outstanding institution.

On October 12, 1870 Lee died at the University and has long been

revered as an ideal by southerners and as a hero by all Americans. His

antevellum home is now known as Arlington House, the Robert E. Lee

Memorial, and is a national memorial. In 1975 Lee’s citizenship was restored

posthumously by an act of the U.S. Congress.

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