Robert Edward Lee was a career US Army officer and engineer. He was also one of the most celebrated generals in the history of the United States. He was born on January 19, 1807, and died on October 12, 1870. Lee was the son of Major General Henry Lee III, the Governor of Virginia, and his second wife, Anne Hill Carter. He was a descendant of Sir Thomas More and King Robert II of Scotland through the Earls of Crawford. He was also related to explorer Meriwether Lewis of Lewis and Clark fame.
He was toward the top of his class at West Point, and distinguished himself as an exceptional soldier in the US Army for 32 years. He is best known, however, for commanding the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia during the American Civil War.
Lee was invited by President Abraham Lincoln to command the entire Union Army in 1861, but declined because his home state of Virginia seceded from the Union. Although Lee did not want Virginia to secede, he chose to follow his home state. He was fairly quickly appointed military advisor to president Jefferson Davis in 1861. His first command in the Confederate Sates came in June of 1862 when he was appointed Commander of the Army of Northern Virginia.
Lee’s greatest victories included the Seven Days Battles, the Second Battle of Bull Run, the Battle of Fredericksburg, and the Battle of Chancellorsville. However, lee made two attempts to invade the north, both of which failed. He barely escaped defeat at the battle of Antietam in 1862, and was decisively defeated at Gettysburg in July 1863. Meade failed to pursue Lee after Gettysburg, and lee escaped into Virginia. He was pursued by Grant in a war of attrition, and eventually surrendered at Appomattox Courthouse on April 9, 1865.