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Robert E. Lee was a Confederate general who led the South’s attempt at secession during the Civil War. He challenged Union forces during the war’s bloodiest battles, including Antietam and Gettysburg, before surrendering to Union General Ulysses S. Grant in 1865 at Appomattox Court House in Virginia, marking the end of the devastating conflict that nearly split the United States.
Who Was Robert E. Lee?
Lee was born in Stratford Hall, a plantation in Virginia, on January 19, 1807, to a wealthy and socially prominent family. His mother, Anne Hill Carter, also grew up on a plantation and his father, Colonel Henry “Light Horse Harry” Lee, was descended from colonists and become a Revolutionary War leader and three-term governor of Virginia.
But the family hit hard times when Lee’s father made a series of bad investments that left him in debtors’ prison. He fled to the West Indies and died in 1818 while trying to return to Virginia when Lee was barely a teen.
With little money for his education, Lee went to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point for a military education. He graduated second in his class in 1829—and the following month he would lose his mother.
Robert E. Lee's Children
After graduation, Lee’s military career quickly took off as he chose a position with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
A year later, he began courting a childhood connection, Mary Custis Washington. Given his father’s diminished reputation, Lee had to propose twice to win approval to wed Mary, the great-granddaughter of Martha Washington and the step-great-granddaughter of President George Washington.
The pair married in 1831; Lee and his wife had seven children, including three sons, George, William and Robert, who followed him into the military to fight for the Confederate States during the Civil War.
As the couple were establishing their family, Lee frequently travelled with the military on engineering projects. He first distinguished himself in battle during the Mexican-American War under General Winfield Scott in the battles of Veracruz, Churubusco and Chapultepec. Scott once declared that Lee was “the very best soldier that I ever saw in the field.”
Was Robert E. Lee a Slave Owner?
Lee did not grow up on a large plantation, but his wife inherited a slave in 1857 from her father, George Washington Park Custis.
Lee executed his father-in-law's will, which included Arlington House near Washington, D.C., a poorly-managed plantation with debts and nearly 200 slaves, whom Custis wanted freed within five years of his death.
As a result of his wife's inheritance, Lee became owner of hundreds of slaves. While historical accounts vary, Lee’s treatment of the slaves was described as being so combative and harsh that it led to slave revolts.
Lee at Harpers Ferry
During the 1850s, tensions between the abolitionist movement and slave owners reached a boiling point, and the union of states was near a breaking point. Lee entered the fray by halting a raid at Harpers Ferry in 1859, capturing radical abolitionist John Brown and his followers.
The following year, Abraham Lincoln was elected president, prompting seven Southern states — Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Texas — to secede in protest. U.S. Secretary of War Jefferson Davis became the president of the Confederate States of America.
The first attack of the Civil War came on April 12, 1861, when Confederates took control of South Carolina’s Fort Sumter.
Lee’s home state of Virginia seceded less than a week later, creating the defining moment of his career. When he was asked to lead Union forces, he resigned from military service rather than fight against his Virginia friends and neighbors.
General Robert E. Lee
Lee wasn’t a secessionist, but he immediately joined the Confederates and was named general and commander of the South’s fight for secession.
Lee has been widely criticized for his aggressive strategies that led to mass casualties. In the Battle of Antietam, on September 17, 1862, Lee made his first attempt at invading the North in the bloodiest single day of the war.
Antietam ended with roughly 23,000 casualties and the Union claiming victory for General George McClellan. Less than a week later, President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation.
The battles continued through the cold, harsh winter and into the summer of 1863, when Lee’s troops challenged Union forces in Pennsylvania during the three-day Battle of Gettysburg, which claimed 28,000 Confederate soldiers’ lives and 23,000 casualties on the Union side.
The war dragged on for two more years until a victory for Lee became impossible. With a dwindling army, Lee surrendered to Grant on April 9, 1865, at Appomattox Court House in Virginia, effectively ending the Civil War.
Robert E. Lee House
At the start of the war, Lee and his family headed South, leaving Arlington House, but they did not reclaim their property.
The federal government seized the estate (now known as Arlington National Cemetery) and used it for military graves for thousands of fallen Union soldiers, possibly to prevent Lee from ever returning home.
The Lee family residence is now managed by the National Park Service as Arlington House, The Robert E. Lee Memorial, and is open to the public for tours.
As a well-educated man with considerable social and military experience, Lee is celebrated for many of his quotes regarding slavery, duty, honor and military service, including:
- In this enlightened age, there are few I believe, but what will acknowledge, that slavery as an institution, is a moral and political evil in any country.
- Whiskey — I like it, I always did, and that is the reason I never use it.
- It is well that war is so terrible — lest we should grow too fond of it.
- So far from engaging in a war to perpetuate slavery, I am rejoiced that slavery is abolished. I believe it will be greatly for the interest of the South.
- I cannot trust a man to control others who cannot control himself.
- The education of a man is never completed until he dies.
- Do your duty in all things. You cannot do more, you should never wish to do less.
Robert E. Lee Day
In August of 1865, soon after the end of the war, Lee was invited to serve as president of Washington College (now Washington and Lee University), where he and his family are buried.
Since his death at age 63 on October 12, 1870, following a stroke, he has retained a place of distinction in most Southern states.
Lee’s January 19 birthday is observed (to varying degrees) on the third Monday in January as Robert E. Lee Day, an official state holiday in Mississippi and Alabama, and on January 19 in Florida and Tennessee.
Robert E. Lee Statues
The Confederate general remains one of the most divisive figures in American history.
Statues and other memorials built in his honor have become flashpoints in cities such as New Orleans, Louisiana, Baltimore, Maryland, and Dallas, Texas. Many Robert. E. Lee statues have been removed, but Virginia’s 2017 decision to take one down sparked a violent protest that turned deadly in Charlottesville.
While Lee did not support secession, he never defended the rights of slaves. Instead, he led the Confederates as they attempted to dissolve the United States that his own father helped create.
Robert E. Lee. PBS American Experience.
Arlington House. Arlington National Cemetery.
Robert E. Washington & Lee University.
Robert E. Stratford Hall.
The Civil War. American Battlefield Trust.
Robert E. Lee Quotes. Son of the South.
The Reader’s Companion to American History. Eric Foner and John A. Garraty, Editors. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.
Robert E. Lee V: What it’s like to carry around this name
A defaced statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee at the Duke University chapel in Durham, N.C. (Bernard Thomas/Herald-Sun/AP)
Robert E. Lee V is the great-great-grandson of Gen. Robert E. Lee. The D.C. resident is also the longtime boys’ athletic director at the Potomac School in McLean, Va., which my children attend. I visited Lee in his office to talk about the role that his name, and the historical monuments that bear it, has played in the last week. Edited excerpts follow.
Question: The statues of Robert E. Lee have become a lightning rod. It’s your name on the statues. Wherever you go, south of the Mason-Dixon Line, there’s a Robert E. Lee statue or a Robert E. Lee Highway or a Robert E. Lee whatever. What do you think now of the reexamination of that legacy?
First and foremost, if it can avoid any days like this past Saturday in Charlottesville, then take them down today. That’s not what our family is at all interested in, and that’s not what we think General Lee would want whatsoever. . . . And maybe the second step is put these statues in some place where there is historical context, like a museum, and people can talk about the context. Put it in context of the 1860s and the 1800s, so people better understand the times they [Civil War figures] lived in.
Charlottesville is a place where you send students you know and love every year to play ball, to matriculate. What were your thoughts when you were watching Saturday unfold?
We were on vacation in Lake Tahoe. We were having a little family reunion. We had very little cell service, and Willie Crittenberger — my nephew, he’s living in Chicago now — went down to the lake and he could get more cell service down there. And he comes back and he says, “There’s something going on in Charlottesville. Twitter is sort of blowing up.” So we really didn’t know what was going on in real time.
But it’s such a tragic event. And I just hate for some people to hide behind Robert E. Lee’s name. Saying we are doing this for him and for the South, and that’s not at all what he stood for. He is one who said immediately after the war to put your arms down and let’s bring this nation back together — not divide it even further.
Is that what you think? That people are hiding behind his name?
I can’t tell you the reasoning behind the KKK or the right extremists, but when they hide behind the Confederate flag and General Lee. . . . [He let that idea hang in the air.]
You think they’re misunderstanding or misrepresenting his legacy?
I don’t think they understand his legacy at all. I understand that it’s easy for Robert E. Lee V to be saying this, but we were never taught in our family that Robert E. Lee was fighting for slavery. He was fighting for the state of Virginia and for his homeland. He was never fighting to keep the institution of slavery alive.
He owned slaves, though.
He did. Absolutely did. That’s what’s so confusing about this. And that’s why you hear stories about Thomas Jefferson and George Washington and General Lee. They are just men of their times. . . . It was a horrendous institution. A mar on history. If General Lee’s statue or name is that divisive, you need to take that down.
So the name itself is obviously very important to your family. You’re the fifth.
My father is still alive. He’s awesome. He’s 92. . . . And then I’m the fifth, and we have a son. He’s the sixth.
He’d rather talk about Bryce Harper’s injury than any of this. He recognizes though, to his credit, what is going on. He says, “What going on? Why all the violence? Why all the hatred?” Because to us, that is not at all what General Lee stood for. He would be appalled today.
Has anyone in New Orleans or Charlottesville or any of these places that are grappling with this reached out to your family?
Some of the news media has. Like MSNBC, CNN. But not any of the lawmakers or anything like that. And you know, honestly, I think it’s a community-wide decision, and the communities need to figure this out. . . . [The Baltimore mayor] said they had long discussions about it and decided to do it at night, but it had been teed up for a while.
It needs to happen there — in the community. We can offer our insights. I’m sure Robert E. Lee High School here in Fairfax isn’t going to be Robert E. Lee High School for much longer. If that makes sense to that community, then fine. But I also would say that I hope we don’t paint him out as some figure who was fighting for slavery.
What would he think of the statues?
He was extremely modest. John Kowalik [head of Potomac School] was telling me a story a few weeks ago that I had forgotten. When General Lee became president of Washington College, now Washington and Lee, they asked if they could make it Washington and Lee when he was still the president there, and he said no.
There are six Robert E. Lees in your family. The name is obviously meaningful to the family.
None of my friends would even know the legacy. To them I’m Rob Lee, and they could absolutely care less. But when we named [my son] Robert E. Lee VI, we were doing it in recognition of my father and his father. And yeah, down the road to General Lee. No question. . . . I don’t think it was about the perpetuation of keeping the name alive, like, “By God, we’ve got to keep the name going.” You know, it was more like, “It’s a wonderful family name, and we’re going to recognize it as that.”
When you were growing up and your son Robbie was growing up and your father was growing up, there were all these monuments wherever you go and all these highways named for your family.
During spring break, we went down to Hilton Head, South Carolina, and as you head down there, when you get to Richmond [and south], you give your Visa card to the gas station attendant or to the restaurant owner, and it’s remarkable the reaction. . . . He was the losing general of this major war in our country, and people have such incredible respect for him. People will see your name, and they always have good things to say.
But we are not going to live our lives that way. We are not professional Robert E. Lees. . . . We spend very, very, very little time talking about General Lee.
President Trump said that when the Robert E. Lee statue goes down, then Jefferson is next and then Washington. What do you think of that comparison?
I don’t really know what to say about President Trump. If I had to say something, I’d just say I wish he came out stronger Saturday afternoon. I think I’ll just leave it at that.
The people who organized the march in Charlottesville did so in your ancestor’s name.
They said this was a march just to [oppose taking] this statue down? . . . Nothing wrong with that viewpoint. But I don’t really know that that was the goal of these people. They wanted to be on the cable news networks for 72 hours straight and to have a platform to say some ugly things. To have a peaceful protest is one thing. To have a day of violence is another.
What about the rest of their message? “Blood and soil.” And “Jews will not replace us”?
What? What? I don’t understand that. I think that’s misrepresenting his name. That’s not what General Lee stood for. And I know that’s not what we stand for as a family. . . . If you want to have a conversation about taking the statue down, then terrific. Have a town hall meeting at the University of Virginia football stadium, and have a conversation about it and debate it and let the lawmakers make some tough decisions. And if the Lee family or other families with Confederate ancestry can help with that, we’re happy to. But dear God, we have to avoid days like Saturday in Charlottesville.
Marriage and Family
While he was stationed at Fort Monroe, he married Mary Anna Randolph Custis (1808), great-granddaughter of Martha Washington by her first husband Daniel Parke Custis, and step-great-granddaughter of George Washington, the first president of the United States. They were married on June 30, 1831 at Arlington House, her parents' house just across from Washington, D.C. The 3rd U.S. Artillery served as honor guard at the marriage. They eventually had seven children, three boys and four girls:
- George Washington Custis Lee (Custis, 𠇋oo”) 1832 served as Major General in the Confederate Army and aide-de-camp to President Jefferson Davis unmarried
- Mary Custis Lee (Mary, ughter”) 1835 unmarried
- William Henry Fitzhugh Lee (“Rooney”) 1837 served as Major General in the Confederate Army (cavalry) married twice surviving children by second marriage
- Anne Carter Lee (Annie) 1839 unmarried
- Eleanor Agnes Lee (Agnes) 1841 unmarried
- Robert Edward Lee, Jr. (Rob) 1843 served as Captain in the Confederate Army (Rockbridge Artillery) married twice surviving children by second marriage
- Mildred Childe Lee (Milly, “Precious Life”) 1846 unmarried
All the children survived him except for Annie, who died in 1862. They are all buried with their parents in the crypt of the Lee Chapel at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia. Lee is also related to Helen Keller, through Helen's mother, Kate.
General Lee Takes Command of the Army
Knowing he could not win by retreating into defensive works, within three weeks Lee took the offensive, initiating the Seven Days Battle, a series of fights that drove the Federals back down the peninsula. In the final battle, Malvern Hill, Lee threw his men in a series of costly charges against strong Union positions but failed to take the hill. Perhaps Lee was looking to dispel his “Granny Lee” reputation perhaps he was remembering that frontal assaults had often worked in Mexico perhaps he sensed victory was just one more charge away. Whatever his reason, the Seven Days showed both his capacity for maneuver and surprise and his willingness to sustain significant losses in pursuit of victory, traits that would arise again. Lee had driven the enemy away from the gates of Richmond, however, and his star began to rise in the South.
He next moved north, his Army of Northern Virginia divided into two corps, the larger under the command of his “Old War Horse” Lt. Gen. James Longstreet, and the other under Lt. Gen. Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson. In the Battle of Second Bull Run—Second Manassas to the Confederates—Lee defeated Maj. Gen. John Pope. A month later, September 1862, Lee led his army in its first excursion onto Northern soil, crossing the Potomac into Maryland. That campaign ended at the Battle of Antietam (Sharpsburg) on September 17, the bloodiest single day in all of American history. At the end of that day’s fighting, he calmly assessed that the cautious McClellan would not renew the contest and allowed his men a day of rest before withdrawing back into Virginia.
The following December, McClellan’s replacement, Maj. Gen. Ambrose Burnside, stole a march on Lee but failed to cross the Rappahannock River promptly. The resulting Battle of Fredericksburg slaughtered the right wing of Burnside’s army.
At the end of April 1863, a fourth Union commander, Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker, tried to outflank and defeat Lee. The result was what is widely regarded as Lee’s greatest victory, the Battle of Chancellorsville. Boldly dividing his army in the face of superior numbers, the “Gray Fox” repulsed Hooker’s main force, then turned and stopped the rest of the Army of the Potomac at Salem Church.
Robert E. Lee - Birthday, Children and Quotes - HISTORY
AKA Robert Edward Lee
Birthplace: Stratford, VA
Location of death: Lexington, VA
Cause of death: Pneumonia
Remains: Buried, Lee Chapel Museum, Lexington, VA
Religion: Anglican/Episcopalian 
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Confederate General
Military service: US Army (1829-61) Confederate Army (1861-65)
American soldier, general in the Confederate States Army, was the youngest son of major-general Henry Lee, called "Light Horse Harry." He was born at Stratford, Westmoreland county, Virginia, on the 19th of January 1807, and entered West Point in 1825. Graduating four years later second in his class, he was given a commission in the U.S. Engineer Corps. In 1831 he married Mary, daughter of G.W.P. Custis, the adopted son of Washington and the grandson of Mrs. Washington. In 1836 he became first lieutenant, and in 1838 captain. In this rank he took part in the Mexican War, repeatedly winning distinction for conduct and bravery. He received the brevets of major for Cerro Gordo, lieutenant-colonel for Contreras-Churubusco and colonel for Chapultepec.
After the war he was employed in engineer work at Washington and Baltimore, during which time, as before the war, he resided on the great Arlington estate, near Washington, which had come to him through his wife. In 1852 he was appointed superintendent of West Point, and during his three years here he carried out many important changes in the academy. Under him as cadets were his son George Washington Custis Lee, his nephew, Fitzhugh Lee and Jeb Stuart, all of whom became general officers in the Civil War. In 1855 he was appointed as lieutenant-colonel to the 2nd Cavalry, commanded by Colonel Albert Sidney Johnston, with whom he served against the Indians of the Texas border. In 1859, while at Arlington on leave, he was summoned to command the United States troops sent to deal with the John Brown raid on Harper's Ferry. In March 1861 he was made colonel of the 1st U.S. Cavalry but his career in the old army ended with the secession of Virginia in the following month. Lee was strongly averse to secession, but felt obliged to conform to the action of his own state. The Federal authorities offered Lee the command of the field army about to invade the South, which he refused. Resigning his commission, he made his way to Richmond and was at once made a major-general in the Virginian forces. A few weeks later he became a brigadier-general (then the highest rank) in the Confederate service.
The military operations with which the great Civil War opened in 1861 were directed by President Jefferson Davis and General Lee. Lee was personally in charge of the unsuccessful West Virginian operations in the autumn, and, having been made a full general on the 31st of August, during the winter he devoted his experience as an engineer to the fortification and general defence of the Atlantic coast. Thence, when the well-drilled Army of the Potomac was about to descend upon Richmond, he was hurriedly recalled to Richmond. General Johnston was wounded at the battle of Fair Oaks (Seven Pines) on the 31st of May 1862, and General Robert E. Lee was assigned to the command of the famous Army of Northern Virginia which for the next three years "carried the rebellion on its bayonets." Little can be said of Lee's career as a commander-in-chief that is not an integral part of the history of the Civil War. His first success was the "Seven Days' Battle" in whihc he stopped George B. McClellan's advance this was quickly followed up by the crushing defeat of the Federal army under John Pope, the invasion of Maryland and the sanguinary and indecisive battle of the Antietam. The year ended with another great victory at Fredericksburg. Chancellorsville, won against odds of two to one, and the great three days' battle of Gettysburg, where for the first time fortune turned decisively against the Confederates, were the chief events of 1863.
In the autumn Lee fought a war of manoeuvre against General George Gordon Meade. The tremendous struggle of 1864 between Lee and Grant included the battles of the Wilderness, Spottsylvania, North Anna, Cold Harbor and the long siege of Petersburg, in which, almost invariably, Lee was locally successful. But the steady pressure of his unrelenting opponent slowly wore down his strength. At last with not more than one man to oppose to Ulysses S. Grant's three he was compelled to break out of his Petersburg lines (April 1865). A series of heavy combats revealed his purpose, and Grant pursued the dwindling remnants of Lee's army to the westward. Headed off by the Federal cavalry, and pressed closely in rear by Grant's main body, General Lee had no alternative but to surrender. At Appomattox Court House, on the 9th of April, the career of the Army of Northern Virginia came to an end. Lee's farewell order was issued on the following day, and within a few weeks the Confederacy was at an end. For a few months Lee lived quietly in Powhatan county making his formal submission to the Federal authorities and urging on his own people acceptance of the new conditions. In August he was offered, and accepted, the presidency of Washington College, Lexington (now Washington and Lee University), a post which he occupied until his death on the 12th of October 1870 He was buried in the college grounds.
By his achievements Lee won a high place amongst the great generals of history. Though hampered by lack of materials and by political necessities, his strategy was daring always, and he never hesitated to take the gravest risks. On the field of battle he was as energetic in attack as he was constant in defence, and his personal influence over the men whom he led was extraordinary. No student of the American Civil War can fail to notice how the influence of Lee dominated the course of the struggle, and his surpassing ability was never more conspicuously shown than in the last hopeless stages of the contest. The personal history of Lee is lost in the history of the great crisis of America's national life friends and foes alike acknowledged the purity of his motives, the virtues of his private life, his earnest Christianity and the unrepining loyalty with which he accepted the ruin of his party.
Father: Henry Lee (major general, b. 29-Jan-1756, d. 25-Mar-1818)
Mother: Ann Hill Carter (b. 1773, d. 1829)
Brother: Charles Carter Lee
Wife: Mary Anna Rudolph Custis (m. 30-Jun-1831)
Daughter: Anne Carter Lee ("Annie", b. 1839, d. 1862)
Daughter: Eleanor Agnes Lee (b. 1841, d. 1873)
Son: Robert Edward Lee
Daughter: Mildred Lee
Daughter: Mary Lee
Son: William H. Fitzhugh Lee
Son: George Washington Custis Lee (educator, b. 16-Sep-1832, d. 18-Feb-1913)
‘The Lees Are Complex’: Descendants Grapple With a Rebel General’s Legacy
Few American families are as deeply embedded in the nation’s history as the Lees of Virginia. Members of the clan signed the Declaration of Independence, served the new nation as judges and generals, lawmakers and governors, and one, Zachary Taylor, even became president.
For decades, the family appeared to be united in promoting the adulation of its best-known member, the pre-eminent Confederate general Robert E. Lee. But now, as tempers flare around the country over Confederate monuments and what they stand for, the Lees are grappling anew with the general’s checkered legacy. And along with many other families, they are divided over what to do about public statues of a famous forebear.
“Like so much else in this world, the Lees are complex,” said Blair Lee IV, 72, a retired real estate developer from Maryland who describes Robert E. Lee as a “distant cousin.”
“The war pitted brother against brother and cousin against cousin,” he said, “and we’re still at this today.”
Some of the Lees have issued public calls for the statues to come down, and want to distance the family from the white supremacists who marched in Charlottesville, Va., to protest the proposed removal of a Lee statue there.
But others want the monuments to the general to remain where they are, and Blair Lee is among them, even though he is descended from a branch of the family that sided with the Union in the Civil War.
“I don’t understand how tearing down Confederate monuments advances the cause of racial harmony in this country,” said Mr. Lee, whose father was governor of Maryland in the 1970s. “If we’re looking for people to be angry about, why not erase the names of English monarchs from many places?”
The statue debate provides a glimpse into how the Lees of today are reacting to what historians say has been a masterful propaganda campaign aimed at restoring and bolstering white supremacy in the South through the mythology of the “Lost Cause.”
White southerners appropriated the term from Sir Walter Scott’s description of the failed 18th century struggle for Scottish independence, and used it to soften and romanticize the Confederate rebellion, according to James C. Cobb, a historian.
Robert E. Lee himself opposed building public memorials to the rebellion, saying they would just keep open the war’s many wounds. But after his death in 1870, admirers in the South made him the centerpiece of the Lost Cause campaign. His remains are kept in a Virginia mausoleum near those of his wife, their seven children and even his horse, Traveller — an echo of the reverence some Latin American nations lavish on their national heroes.
The propagandists insisted that under General Lee, the South had fought nobly for the principles of self-determination and states’ rights, despite having little hope of defeating the more industrialized North. Slavery, in their telling, was a side issue, and had been a fairly benign institution that offered blacks a better life than they would have had otherwise.
By glossing over the maintenance of slavery as the South’s overriding war aim, the proponents of what came to be called the Lee cult diverted attention from General Lee’s own record as a slave owner, and from any discussion of how the Lee family tree came to include African-Americans.
“There was a rebranding campaign that promoted a total fallacy about what the Civil War was about,” said Karen Finney, 50, a great-great-great grandniece of Robert E. Lee. Her mother, Mildred Lee, a social worker, is white her father, Jim Finney, a civil rights lawyer, was black.Image
“It’s simple: my ancestor was a slave owner who fought to preserve slavery,” said Ms. Finney, who worked as a spokeswoman for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign. “If his side had won, that system of enslavement would have included me as well. Supporters of the statues still want to persuade people they’re not about white supremacy. It’s time to bring the statues down.”
Though they are on different sides of the statue debate, what Ms. Finney and Blair Lee IV have in common, along with hundreds of other close and distant relatives, is their ancestral connection to Richard Lee, an early settler of Virginia in the 17th century who is thought to have come from Shropshire in England’s West Midlands.
Over the decades, that ancestry came to confer considerable prestige, abetted by the creation in 1921 of the Society of the Lees of Virginia, an organization to “promote a better knowledge of the patriotic services of the Lee Family.”
Carter B. Refo, the society’s membership secretary, declined to discuss the statue issue or the Lee family’s long association with slavery before the Civil War. “The Society has a policy of not making public statements, so I am unable to help in that regard,” he said.
Lee descendants maintain a tradition of curating the family’s place in history. Edmund Jennings Lee compiled a genealogical tome in 1895 that remains an important reference work on the family. Today, one of the descendants who helps organize and edit the family’s papers is Robert E.L. DeButts Jr., who works in the financial crime compliance group at Goldman Sachs.
Much of the admiration for Robert E. Lee centers on his long and distinguished military career, on his opposition to secession, on claims that he disliked slavery and on his postwar years, when he supported reconciliation between North and South as president of Washington College (now Washington and Lee University) in Lexington, Va.
“There was this promotion of the general as a Christian gentlemen who only fought to side with his homeland, the Commonwealth of Virginia,” said Glenn LaFantasie, a professor of Civil War history at Western Kentucky University. “Of course, Lee was much more than that, an owner of slaves and a man who sought the capture of his runaway slaves. He fought to perpetuate slavery.”
When his command, the Army of Northern Virginia, invaded Pennsylvania in 1863, some units went on a spree, kidnapping fugitive slaves for their Confederate former masters. Lee urged his soldiers to avoid “the perpetuation of barbarous outrages upon the unarmed,” but did not stop the kidnappings.
Slavery’s importance in forging the fortunes of the Lee family has gained greater attention through the work of Elise Harding-Davis, 70, a prominent African-Canadian historian who says that she, too, is a relative of Lee’s.
Ms. Harding-Davis said that Lee family documents had corroborated oral history in her family that Kizzie, her enslaved great-great-great-great-great grandmother, was a daughter of Lee’s father, Henry Lee III, known as Light-Horse Harry, a Revolutionary War cavalry commander. That would make Kizzie the Confederate general’s half sister.
“We don’t take pride in being Lees, but in being pioneers of North America,” Ms. Harding-Davis said, emphasizing that her ancestors moved to Ontario generations ago in search of freedom. “When you understand the ugliness of the Civil War, and what Robert E. Lee fought for, you know that the statues must come down.”
Researchers at Stratford Hall, the historic plantation in Virginia where Lee was born, have described the kinship claim by Kizzie’s descendants as “tantalizing” and offered the hope that with further research, “maybe their journey will indeed lead to the Lees of Stratford.”
Other descendants remain proud of Robert E. Lee, while rejecting what the far right of today would have him symbolize.
“There are a lot of wonderful things General Lee is known to have done, and this is the antithesis of what he wanted,” Tracy Lee Crittenberger, 58, said of the violence in Charlottesville, where white supremacists and their opponents brawled in the streets and a man plowed his speeding car into a crowd of counterprotesters, killing one woman.
“But we have to acknowledge we’re not living in General Lee’s time period any more,” said Ms. Crittenberger, an admissions official at the Madeira School, a private boarding school for girls in McLean, Va. “If communities decide to take the statue down,” she said, “then I’m not against it.”
CIVIL WAR OP-ED: Remembering Robert E. Lee: American Patriot and Southern Hero
Please let me call to your attention that Monday, January 19, 2015, is the 208 th birthday of Robert E. Lee, whose memory is still dear in the hearts of many Southerners. Why is this man so honored in the South and respected in the North? Lee was even respected by the soldiers of Union blue who fought against him during the War Between the States.
What is your community doing to commemorate the birthday of this great American?
General Lee’s portrait adorns the State Capitol in Atlanta where the Georgia Division Sons of Confederate Veterans hosted their 1 st Lee birthday in 1988. The SCV will host their annual Robert E. Lee birthday celebration on Saturday January 17, 2015 at Georgia’s Old Secession Capitol on Greene Street in Milledgeville. Read more at: http://gascv.org/2015-annual-robert-e-lee-birthday-celebration/
During Robert E. Lee's 100th birthday in 1907, Charles Francis Adams, Jr., a former Union Commander and grandson of US President John Quincy Adams, spoke in tribute to Robert E. Lee at Washington and Lee College's Lee Chapel in Lexington, Virginia. His speech was printed in both Northern and Southern newspapers and is said to had lifted Lee to a renewed respect among the American people.
And In Lexington, Virginia events are scheduled for the birthday of Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson on January 16 th and 17 th . Read more at: http://leejacksonday.webs.com/
Dr. Edward C. Smith, respected African-American Professor of History at American University in Washington, D.C. , told the audience in Atlanta, Ga. during a 1995 Robert E. Lee birthday event, quote 'Dr. Martin Luther King and Robert E. Lee were individuals worthy of emulation because they understood history.' Unquote
During January students, teachers, parents, Joe and Jane America and indeed the world will hear much praise and tribute to the late Civil Rights leader and Baptist Pastor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. born on January 15, 1929 in Atlanta, Georgia…But, will parents and educators also teach young people about General Stonewall Jackson and General Robert E. Lee born during the same month…Will the American Media give fair news coverage to those who honor these two great American-Christian men of Southern valor? Their birthday is not on calendars, but….
Robert E. Lee’s birthday is January 19 th and Stonewall Jackson’s is two days later on the 21 st . Their memory is still dear in the hearts of many Americans and folks all around God’s good earth.
Booker T. Washington, America's great African-American Educator, wrote in 1910, quote 'The first white people in America, certainly the first in the South to exhibit their interest in the reaching of the Negro and saving his soul through the medium of the Sunday-school were Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson.' unquote
American Presidents who have paid tribute to Lee include: Franklin D. Roosevelt, who spoke during the 1930s at a Lee statue dedication in Dallas, Texas, Theodore 'Teddy' Roosevelt and Dwight D. Eisenhower who proudly displayed a portrait of Lee in his presidential office.
During a tour through the South in 1905, President Theodore Roosevelt told the aged Confederate Veterans in Richmond, Virginia, quote, 'Here I greet you in the shadow of the statue of your Commander, General Robert E. Lee. You and he left us memories which are part of the memories bequeathed to the entire nation by all the Americans who fought in the War Between the States.' Unquote
Georgia's famous Stone Mountain carving of Jefferson Davis, Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee was dedicated on May 9, 1970. William Holmes Borders, a noted African-American theologian and pastor of the Wheat Avenue Baptist Church, was asked to give the invocation. The many dignitaries attending this historic event included United States Vice President Spiro Agnew. Thousands of people bring their families each year to see this memorial to these three great Americans.
Who was Robert E. Lee that has been praised by both Black and White Americans and people from around the world?
Robert E. Lee, a man whose military tactics have been studied worldwide, was an American soldier, Educator, Christian gentlemen, husband and father. Lee said quote, 'All the South has ever desired was that the Union, as established by our forefathers, should be preserved, and that the government, as originally organized, should be administered in purity and truth.' Unquote
Robert E. Lee was born on Jan. 19, 1807, at ' Stratford ' in Westmoreland County, Virginia. The winter was cold and the fireplaces were little help for Robert's mother, Ann Hill (Carter) Lee, who suffered from a severe cold.
Ann Lee named her son 'Robert Edward' after two of her brothers.
Robert E. Lee undoubtedly acquired his love of country from those who lived during the American Revolution. His Father, 'Light Horse' Harry was a hero of the revolution and served three terms as governor of Virginia and as a member of the United States House of Representatives. Two members of his family also signed the Declaration of Independence.
Lee was educated at the schools of Alexandria, Va., and he received an appointment to West Point Military Academy in 1825. He graduated in 1829, second in his class and without a single demerit.
Robert E. Lee's first assignment was to Cockspur Island, Georgia, to supervise the construction of Fort Pulaski.
While serving as 2nd Lieutenant of Engineers at Fort Monroe, Va., Lee wed Mary Ann Randolph Custis. Robert and Mary had grown up together, Mary was the daughter of George Washington Parke Custis, the Grandson of Martha Washington and adopted son of George Washington.
Mary was an only child therefore, she inherited Arlington House, across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C., where she and Robert E. Lee raised seven children, three boys and four girls.
Army promotions were slow. In 1836, Lee was appointed to first Lieutenant. In 1838, with the rank of Captain, Robert E. Lee fought in the War with Mexico and was wounded at the Battle of Chapultepec.
Lee was appointed Superintendent of West Point in 1852 and is considered one of the best superintendents in that institution's history.
President to-be Abraham Lincoln offered command of the Union army to Lee in 1861, but he refused. He said, 'I cannot raise my hand against my birthplace, my home, my children.'
The Custis-Lee Mansion 'Arlington House' would be occupied by Federals, who would turn the estate into a war cemetery. Today Arlington House is preserved by the National Park Service as a Memorial to Robert E. Lee. < http://www.nps.gov/arho/ > http://www.nps.gov/arho/
Lee served as adviser to President Jefferson Davis, and then on June 1, 1862, commanded the legendary Army of Northern Virginia.
After four terrible years of death and destruction, Gen. Robert E. Lee met Gen. Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Courthouse in Virginia and ended their battles.
Lee was called Marse Robert, Uncle Robert and Marble Man.
Lee was a man of honor, proud of his name and heritage. After the War Between the States, he was offered $50,000 for the use of his name. His reply was: 'Sirs, my name is the heritage of my parents. It is all I have and it is not for sale.' His refusal came at a time when he had nothing.
In the fall of 1865, Lee was offered and accepted the presidency of troubled Washington College in Lexington, Virginia. The school was later renamed Washington and Lee College in his honor.
Robert E. Lee died of a heart attack at 9:30 AM on the morning of October 12, 1870, at Washington College. His last words were 'Strike the tent.' He was 63 years of age.
He is buried at Lee Chapel on the school grounds with his family and near his favorite horse, Traveller.
On this his 208th birthday let us ponder the words he wrote to Annette Carter in 1868: 'I grieve for posterity, for American Principles and American liberty.'
Confederate Robert E. Lee’s racist legacy fuels the U.S. renaming movement | Wall Street Journal Race News
As the U.S. continues to work to resolve the symbol of race relations and reverence confederation Who fought for the continuation of slavery in the 1860s, communities across the country are considering new ways to commemorate one of the most famous leaders of the rebellion: General Robert E. Lee.
To today, fraction The buildings, roads, monuments and institutions are named after Li. Thousands of children are educated in schools named after Lee every January, a handful of states still celebrate “Robert Lee Day”, with portraits of the late generals appearing on monuments and memorials in dozens of cities.
Lee was an honorary officer from Virginia, who fought for the United States before the Civil War and married George Washington’s family. He won some of the most important victories for the Confederacy in the struggle to protect slavery.
For some people, Lee is a loyal man to his home state of Virginia. For others, his decision to fight the federal government in order to divide the United States made him a traitor.
But some people are reconsidering continuing their attachment to Lee, or changing the way they treat a person whose legacy has divided Americans to this day.
“What happens in our community is not a decision made by people who have long since died, but a decision we make today,” the historian and author of the book “Fake Reasons: Fraud, Fabrication, and White Supremacy in Confederate Memory” Author Adam Dobby told Al Jazeera. “Understanding the difference between the Civil War and celebrating the Confederacy, I think this is the key difference we need to make clear.”
A bookstore that was previously located in a slave area was moved to a non-historical building, using this space to tell the history of slaves in the plantation.
“This is one of the main goals of the project. To promote the story of the enslaved people and enslaved communities in Arlington Palace,” National Park Ranger Aaron La Roca told Al Jazeera. “We are focusing on these stories. We are bringing them to the forefront.”
Robert E. Lee's Last Stand: His Dying Words and the Stroke That Killed Him. (P1.294)
OBJECTIVE: To review historical details of the stroke preceding the death of Robert E. Lee, and offer perspective on the understanding and management of cerebrovascular disease in the late 19 th century. BACKGROUND: On the evening of September 28, 1870, Robert Edward Lee suffered a stroke. He died two weeks later at the age of 63 ending one of the most storied lives in American history, yet little has attended to his death and the nature of his stroke. DESIGN/METHODS: Investigation of Lee’s medical history and death from Lee - The Last Years by C.B. Flood including accounts by his physicians, Drs. H.T. Barton and R.L. Madison, close friend Col. W.P. Johnston, and family. RESULTS: In the autumn of 1870, while serving as president of Washington College, Lee regularly experienced fatigue, shortness of breath with exertion, and chest pains. Previous diagnoses included “rheumatism” and “pericardial inflammation” - Fredericksburg (1863). On September 28, Lee stood to say grace over supper, “opened his mouth but no words came out.” Sitting back in his chair, he “bowed down, looking very strange and speaking incoherently.” His physicians found no paralysis or “apoplexy” but diagnosed “venous congestion of the brain” secondary to “cerebral exhaustion.” In following days, observers noted “⋯his lips never uttered a sound!” and “for the most part communicated with nodding or shaking his head.” Therapy included bed rest, turpentine, strychnine, and morphine. The morning of October 12, he developed a “feeble, rapid pulse” and “shallow breathing.” Lee’s reported last words were, “Tell Hill he must come up!” “Strike the tent!” Yet, his daughter at the bedside recalled only “struggling” with “long, hard breathes,” and “in a moment he was dead.” CONCLUSIONS: Lee suffered chronic angina and congestive heart failure, with a probable myocardial infarction during the war. His death stemmed from an acute, possibly cardioembolic stroke manifesting as expressive aphasia, and subsequent respiratory complications. Given his aphasia, Lee’s famous last words are questionable.
Disclosure: Dr. Southerland has received personal compensation in an editorial capacity for Neurology Podcast.
Early Military Career
While Mary and the children spent their lives on Mary&aposs father&aposs plantation, Lee stayed committed to his military obligations. His loyalties moved him around the country, from Savannah to St. Louis to New York.
In 1846, Lee got the chance he had been waiting for his whole military career when the United States went to war with Mexico. Serving under General Winfield Scott, Lee distinguished himself as a brave battle commander and a brilliant tactician. In the aftermath of the U.S. victory over its neighbor, Lee was held up as a hero. Scott showered Lee with particular praise, saying that in the event the United States went into another war, the government should consider taking out a life insurance policy on the commander.
But life away from the battlefield proved difficult for Lee to handle. He struggled with the mundane tasks associated with his work and life. For a time, he returned to his wife&aposs family&aposs plantation to manage the estate, following the death of his father-in-law. The property had fallen under hard times, and for two long years, he tried to make it profitable again.