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Robert Edward Lee


Born at Stratford, Westmoreland County, Virginia. He was the son of Henry "Light-Horse Harry" Lee and Anne Hill Carter Lee. Graduate of West Point in 1829. He was second in his class. Married Mary Ann Randolph Custis June 30, 1821. She was a great-granddaughter of Martha (Custis) Washington. They had seven children.

He was assigned with the Army engineers doing flood control work on the Mississippi River and building coastal defenses on the Atlantic. In 1848 he went to Texas to serve under General Winfield Scott. He served with distinction at battles of Veracruz, Cerro Gordo, Mexico City, Churubusco and Chapultepec. He served with the engineers again 1848 to 1852. In 1852 he was appointed superintendent at West Point.

In October 1859 Lee was ordered to Harper's Ferry to retake the arsenal from John Brown. Lee was offered the command of Union forces when war broke out in 1861. He felt a greater loyalty to his state than to his country. He resigned his commission in April 1861 and was soon appointed general in command of the Army of Virginia. Lee assumed field command of the Army of Northern Virginia June 1, 1862.

Lee conducted the Seven Days Battles. Although the battles could be considered Confederate defeats, the campaign pushed McClellan back from Richmond. Lee led an invasion of the North in the summer of 1863. His defeat at Gettysburg was a turning point in the war. The southern forces were forced to slowly retreat toward Richmond. In February 1865 Lee was given command of all the armies of the Confederacy. Lee surrendered to General Grant at Appomattox Courthouse April 9, 1865.

In September 1865 Lee was appointed president of Washington College at Lexington, Virginia. He died there at Lexington. The name of the school was changed to Washington and Lee University.

Lee appears with Stonewall Jackson on the Stone Mountain Commemorative Half Dollar and with George B. McClellan on the Battle of Antietam half. He appears with Grant on the Civil War Veteran medal.


Source credit: Pete Smith, American Numismatic Biographies


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