Virginia Pioneers

Confederate Generals of Virginia

Major General Robert E. Lee

Robert E. LeeRobert E. Lee returned to Richmond as a paroled prisoner of war where he lived with dignity having the love of all his friends. “ I cannot desert my native state in the hour of her adversity,” he remarked to a friend. “ I Must abide her fortune, and share her fate.” Lee died on October 12 1870 at Lexington, Virginia where he was buried. There is a statue of him riding his horse in the rutunda of the capitol in Richmond, Virginia.

. . . . . . McLean House During the battle of the Wilderness and then on to Petersburg he maneuvered his men into entrenchments and other evasive tactics until he was forced into a siege. Afterwards winning, he held Richmond and Petersburg for nearly ten months before retreating to Appomattox where he was forced to surrender. About 5 p.m. on April 8, 1865, General Lee rode his horse, Traveler, into the Appomattox area. The Confederates tried to get through the Union blockade but could not. When Lee entered Federal lines he sent two flags of truce, not knowing which of the Federal columns General Grant was with. The McLean House, Appomattox, Virginia, the scene of Lee's surrender in 1865. The surrender took place on the first floor on the left of the house.

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Sources: Civil War Times, June 1970 issue; Abe Lincoln by Carl Sandburg; The Civil War by Geoffrey C. Ward (1990); Lee Family History and Genealogy

Robert E. Lee Robert E. Lee was beloved by family and friends long before he became General Lee of the Confederacy. He was saluted and admired by Southerners for many years after the war, known to all as a gentleman of refinement and class. He was the son of a Revolutionary War Hero known as Light Horse Harry Lee. Lee attended West Point and served on various engineering projects in Georgia, Virginia, and New York. During the Mexican war he served on the staffs of John Wool and Winfield Scott and distinguished himself scouting for the troops. In 1852 he became superintendent of the military academy and served with the Second Cavalry in western Texas until 1857 when his father died and he had to return home to settle the estate. In 1859 he led his men to help the militia put an end to John Brown's Harper's Ferry Raid. Thereafter he served again in Texas until summoned to Washington in 1861 by Winfield Scott who tried to retain Lee in the U. S. service. But the Virginian rejected the command of the Union's field forces on the day after Virginia seceded. His Southern assignments included: major general, Virginia's land and naval forces (April 23, 1861); commanding Virginia forces (April 23 July 1861); brigadier general, CSA (May 14, 186 1); general, CSA (from June 14, 186 1); commanding Department of Northwestern Virginia (late July-October 1861); commanding Department of South Carolina, Georgia and Florida (November 8, 1861-March 3, 1862); and commanding Army of Northern Virginia June 1, 1862-April 9, 1865). At the beginning of the War Between the States, Lee was elected a Confederate brigadier general, and later full general in charge of supervising all Southern forces in Virginia. In the first summer of the war he was given his first field command in western Virginia. His Cheat Mountain Campaign was a disappointing fizzle largely due to the failings of his superiors. His entire tenure in the region was unpleasant, dealing with the bickering of his subordinates-William W. Loring, John B. Floyd, and Henry A. Wise. His debut in field command had not been promising, but Jefferson Davis appointed him to command along the Southern Coast. His campaigns against the yankees were brilliantly executed. The problem was the other generals such as Joseph E. Johnston whose attack on Seven Pines delivered Jefferson Davis and General Lee into a surprise engagement. In the confusion of the fight Johnston was badly wounded, and that night Davis instructed Lee to take command of what he renamed the Army of Northern Virginia. He fought the second day of the battle but the initiative had already been lost the previous day. Later in the month, in a daring move, he left a small force in front of Richmond and crossed the Chickahominy to strike the one Union corps north of the river. In what was to be called the Seven Days Battles the individual fights-Beaver Dam Creek, Gaines' Mill, Savage Station, Glendale, White Oak Swamp, and Malvern Hill-were all tactical defeats for the Confederates. But Lee had achieved the strategic goal of removing McClellan's army from the very gates of Richmond. He was victories at Fredericksburg and at Chancellorsville, where he had detached Jackson with most of the army on a lengthy flank march while he remained with only two divisions in the immediate front of the Union army. Launching his second invasion of the North, he lost at Gettysburg. On the third day of the battle he displayed one of his major faults when at Malvern Hill and on other fields-he ordered a massed infantry assault across a wide plain, not recognizing that the rifle, which had come into use since the Mexican War, put the charging troops under fire for too long a period. Another problem was his issuance of general orders to be executed by his subordinates.

Jeannette Holland Austin

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