Friday, October 12, 2007

The Passing of General Robert E. Lee

Today, in 1870, General Robert E. Lee succumbed to the effects of a stroke he had suffered two weeks prior. He was 63 years old.

Lee graduated from West Point with the class of 1829. He graduated with the rare distinction of having never received a single demerit. Lee, a colonel in the Union Army, resigned his commission when Virginia seceded from the Union. He became an advisor to the confederacy in Richmond. He assumed command of the Army of Northern Virginia in 1862 when General Joseph Johnston was wounded in the Peninsula Campaign during the Battle of Seven Pines.

Lee’s aggressive campaign kept the Union Army on the defensive for over a year. Although widely debated it is generally agreed that after Lee failed to completely subdue the Union Army at Antietam and Gettysburg, the Army of Northern Virginia began to falter. Grant’s victory at Vicksburg the day following Gettysburg and the subsequent “March to the Sea” by Sherman sealed the fate of Lee’s Army and he surrendered in April of 1865 at Appomattox Courthouse Virginia.

After the war Lee became the president of Washington College in Lexington Virginia. Under his leadership the school grew from a few dozen students to well over 300. After his death the school changed it’s name to Washington-Lee University and is still operating to this day. A fitting testament to one of America’s Greatest Leaders.


Anonymous said...

I wonder what he would think if he saw this country today. Still divided after what? 150 years!

Soapbox said...

No doubt he would still have a heavy heart.

Historical Wit said...

Well he knew something of saddness, after all he had to fight all his classmates from West Point. Many of the people who fought in the Civil War probably had a guess that the divide created there would go on for a long time. Brother fighting brother would have some serious lasting strains on a family.

Gunpowder Chronicler said...

You know, there is an interesting story about Lee.

The first Sunday after Easter 1865, Lee was in Church in Richmond. When the Rt Reverend called for parishioners to come forward for communion, a single black man walked down the aisle to the communion rail.

As you can imagine, it was stunning and shocking to many a Virginian to see such a thing.

After a deafening silence, Lee stood, walked down the aisle, and joined the former slave for communion.

He was a humble man of amazing character and clarity. His decision at Appomattox on Palm Sunday 1865 to surrender -- rather than ordering his men to fight a guerilla war -- was one of the greatest and most patriotic decisions ever.

Soapbox said...

Thank you Gunpowder. That is an interesting story.

Lee was deeply religious and although he invoked the blessings of God in Battle so that the South would prevail, he also asked for blessings to re-unite the country in peace when he surrendered.

He was quite an interesting man.

Soapbox said...
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