Robert Edward Lee, perhaps the most revered American soldier of all time, was born in Virginia on Jan. 19, 1807.
Thinking of him and the events of his life brings back thoughts of old times not forgotten. Lee gained his greatest fame while in command of the Army of Northern Virginia.
Southern boys from the Thomson, Warrenton and Augusta areas, and all places in between, served in that Army under Gen. Lee. After his surrender at Appomattox Court House, Gen. Lee returned to Richmond as a prisoner of war on parole, which meant that the war was still going on, but that he had given his word that he would not fight again. He at once submitted with the utmost composure to his altered destiny. He devoted the rest of his life to setting an example of conduct for the other ex-Confederates.
He refused a number of offers that would have made him rich. Instead, he assumed the presidency of Washington College at Lexington, Va. It is now known as Washington and Lee University. Lee’s wartime prestige, in the North and the South, and the adoration he earned as the symbol of the good things about the old South, made him a legendary figure even before his death in 1870.
He is buried at Washington and Lee.
Did you know that Robert E. Lee was the son of the famous Light-Horse Harry Lee of Revolutionary War fame? Or, did you know that Robert E. Lee graduated in 1829 from West Point without a single demerit standing against his name for the entire four years of his courses there? And, did you know that Lee married Mary Ann Randolph Custis, the only child of George Washington Parke Custis, a grandson of Martha Washington by her first marriage?
Did you know that Lee was in Virginia at the time of John Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry, and was placed in command of the detachment of Marines that captured John Brown and his garrison?
You might not know that Lee was strongly attached to the Union and the Constitution, and had freed the slaves that had been given him by the will of his deceased father-in-law. This showed that he had no sympathy for slavery. Also, did you know that Robert E. Lee refused the chief command of the Union forces less than a week after the firing on Fort Sumter? The offer was made by Gen. Winfield Scott at the specific request of President Abraham Lincoln.
Have you ever thought how long the War Between the States would have lasted if Robert E. Lee had been the commander in chief of the Northern forces and not the Southern forces?