General Robert E. Lee

January 19, 1807 - October 12, 1870

All night long Robert E. Lee paced the floor of his study in his home at Arlington, across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C. He had just been offered the dream of any American soldier -- command of the U.S. Army. But the Civil War had just started and Lee was a Virginian.

With the coming of the dawn, Lee -- son of Revolutionary War hero General "Light Horse Harry" Lee -- made his decision. He opposed secession and slavery, but considered himself more a Virginian than an American, and could not raise his sword against his native state. He would fight for the South.

In his brilliant command of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia, he came to be regarded as a great general, a great human being, and a hero to all Americans -- a man beloved by his own soldiers and respected by his opponents. Thanks to his skill, Lee time and again was able to defeat much larger Union Armies. His victories toll like a bell through American history: the Seven Days, Second Bull Run, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Wilderness, and Spotsylvania. During the last year of the war, it was his leadership that kept the starving Confederate Army in the field.

Lee, born on January 19, 1807, was not like other generals: he seldom wore a weapon, would never shout or swear at others, he was polite, and had a kind heart. He once got off his horse during a battle to put a fallen bird back in its nest. Lee was so respected by his soldiers that they would remove their hats when he rode past and reach out just to touch his horse.

Lee surrendered at Appomattox Court House, Virginia, on April 9, 1865 and spent the rest of his life working for the reunion of the nation. He refused offers that would have brought him a great deal of money. Instead, he became president of little Washington College (now Washington and Lee University) in Lexington, Virginia. There he died on October 12, 1870, and was mourned by the entire nation -- North and South alike.

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