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by Adnan
Rated: E · Essay · History · #1134602
A description of Robert E. Lee's life and great achievements during the civil war.

Robert E Lee

Robert E Lee’s father, “Lighthorse Harry lee, was one of the heroes of the Revolutionary War. The dreaded Civil War would not have lasted as long as it did if Robert E. Lee had stayed with the Union forces and taken its command.

Although Lee suffered during his childhood, he grew up to become one of the most intelligent military students. Robert Edward Lee descended from one of the oldest and finest families in Virginia. He was born in Westmoreland County, Virginia on January 19, 1807. Lee’s father died leaving the family nearly bankrupt; therefore Lee took the responsibility to care for his mother. At a young age, he was skilled in combat, and he excelled in his studies at West Point where he graduated second in his class. One of his heroic deeds was capturing the cruel abolitionist John Brown, and his group of followers. During the Mexican War, Lee never led men into battle but served as a tactical engineer.

Robert E. Lee was one of the greatest Confederate generals that America had ever produced. During the dawn of war, Lincoln offered him the position of a commanding general of the Union troops, which he refused. He did not start of well in the Confederacy since he failed as a leader in western Virginia. This led him to begin a desk job with Jefferson Davis. Lee was later in charge of the defenses in South Carolina. During George B. McClellan’s Richmond Campaign, Lee’s superior, Joseph Johnston, was wounded at Seven Pines. Thus, Lee was to lead the Army of Northern Virginia. He rid Richmond of the Federals and then he defeated them again at the Second Bull Run. From there on until Gettysburg, Lee was nearly invincible. Antietam was his first attack on the North, which was against General McClellan and it ended in a draw. Lee crushed General Ambrose Everett Burnside’s forces easily at Fredericksburg. The following May, with impossible odds and daring tactics, he was victorious at the battle of Chancellorsville, against General Joe Hooker. After nearly a year filled with victories, Lee was finally defeated at Gettysburg, by General Meade. He then faced a more formidable foe, Ulysses S. Grant, who destroyed him at Appomattox. After a nine month siege at Petersburg, Lee attempted to join Johnston’s forces in North Carolina, but failed. Finally, Lee surrendered to Grant at the Appomattox Courthouse on April 9, 1865.

One of Robert E Lee’s greatest victories occurred at Chancellorsville. Lee, a lieutenant colonel cavalry, paired up with the brilliant military strategist “Stonewall” Jackson. Joseph Hooker, the new Union general, had restructured the Union army and formed a cavalry corps. Hooker, who had more than 110,000 men, greatly outnumbered the Confederates, who had a mere 60,000. As a most daring decision, Lee divided up his army so that one part remained in Fredericksburg and the other part would attack Hooker’s flank. He sent Jackson through the Wilderness, a dense forest, so that he could secretly attack Hooker’s exposed flank. Although attacked at the rear as he led his seven hour march, he was not pursued as the Union thought that he was retreating. Jackson attacked later, startling the unprotected Union soldiers, who were having dinner and writing letters. This was the most dangerous and daring flanking maneuver of the Civil War. Although the Union forces greatly outnumbered the Confederates, the Southerners were still a far more superior force.

In the aftermath of the Civil War, Robert E. Lee remained in his native state of Virginia. Lee supported the rebuilding of Virginia and reuniting it with the Union. He also wanted to stop the regional hatred in the North and South. He became president of Washington College in Lexington, Virginia. This was later renamed as the Washington and Lee University, honoring the brilliant general. Robert E. Lee died on October 12, 1870 in Lexington, suffering from heart problems. He was deeply mourned by both Northerners and Southerners.

Robert E. Lee did not let an unfortunate childhood get in the way of reaching true greatness in his life. His brilliance in the military field was recognized and he grew quickly through the ranks to become one of the greatest generals in the United States. If Robert E. Lee had stayed with the Union forces, the Civil War would hardly have lasted long. Without him, the Confederate forces would have been unable to stretch the length of the Civil War for four full years.


Colay, Michael. Generals of the Civil War. New York: Barnes and Noble, 1997.

Davis, William C. Portraits of the Civil War. London: Salamander, 1999.

McPherson, James P. “Chancellorsville.” Civil War Home. 18 Mar. 2004.

Robert E. Lee. N.p.: Grolier, n.d.

Timms, Howard. “Lee, Robert Edward.” World Book Encyclopedia. 1996. 150-151

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