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General Robert E. Lee Autographs, Memorabilia & Collectibles

Born: January 19, 1807 in Stratford Hall, Virginia
Died: October 12, 1870 in Lexington, Virginia
Biography | show moreshow less
Robert Edward Lee (1807-1870), among the most revered military leaders in American history, was the son of Revolutionary War hero and Virginia Governor "Lighthorse Harry" Lee. But the father had squandered the family fortune, even spending time in debtors' prison. Robert E. Lee's later wealth and Arlington plantation derived from his wife Mary Custis, great grand-daughter of Martha Washington. Lee graduated from the US Military Academy in 1829, second in his class, and spent his early years of military service in engineering pursuits. His military talent became evident, though, in the Mexican War, as one of General Winfield Scott's chief aides in the campaign from the coast to Mexico City. He was wounded in the climactic assault on Chapultepec (1847). Lee was Superintendent of West Point (1852-1855), and then served as a cavalry officer on the Western frontier. He commanded the federal troops who captured John Brown after the abolitionist's raid on Harper's Ferry (1859). Lee's personal views on slavery are much debated, but he certainly did not welcome secession of the Southern states. He was offered command of the US Army in 1861 and did not immediately refuse it. However, he resigned from the US Army (April 20, 1860), when it was clear that President Lincoln was determined to prevent secession by force and took command of the Virginia militia three days later. Lee did not gain the position for which he is best remembered, command of the Confederacy's Army of Northern Virginia, until June 1862, but then he won a string of brilliant victories: befuddling one Union general after another during the Seven Days Battle, Second Manassas, Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville. Lee was aggressive in attack, believing that a long war favored the North, which served him well in battles like Chancellorsville, but led to also led to costly defeats at Antietam and - most importantly - Gettysburg (July 1-4, 1863). In the final two years of the conflict, Lee - finally opposed by an equally talented Union General in Ulysses S. Grant, and with Confederate resources nearing exhaustion, switched to a defensive strategy, offering tenacious defense in battles like the Wilderness and the long siege of Petersburg. The most trusted confidante of Confederate President Jefferson Davis, Lee was promoted to commander-in-chief of all Confederate armies in January1865, but was compelled to surrender to Grant at Appomattox Courthouse (April 9). After the war, Lee advocated acceptance of reunion and became a symbol of national reconciliation. As such, and unlike most other wartime leaders, he was viewed neither as villain nor scapegoat in the North or the South. He accepted the presidency of Washington College, later renamed Washington and Lee. Mary Anne Randolph Custis (1807-1873), the only surviving daughter of George Washington Parke Custis and Mary Lee Fitzhugh married Robert E. Lee (1807-1870) on June 30, 1831.

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