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Robert E. Lee was the leading Confederate General during the U.S. Civil War and has been venerated as a heroic figure in the South.
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Robert E. Lee came to military prominence during the U.S. Civil War, commanding Virginia's armed forces and becoming general-in-chief of the Confederate forces.
At the beginning of April 1865, Grant's relentless pressure finally forced Gen. Robert E. Lee to evacuate Richmond, and after a nine-day retreat, Lee surrendered his army at the Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865.
Stonewall Jackson pressed his army to travel 646 miles in 48 days of marching and won five significant victories with a force of about 17,000 against a combined force of 60,000.
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But Lee's commitment to the Army was superseded by his commitment to Virginia. After turning down an offer from President Abraham Lincoln to command the Union forces, Lee resigned from the military and returned home. While Lee had misgivings about centering a war on the slavery issue, when Virginia voted to secede from the nation on April 18, 1861, Lee agreed to help lead the Confederate forces.
Over the next year,
Lee again distinguished himself on the battlefield. In May 1862, he took control of the Army of Northern Virginia and drove back the Union Army in Richmond in the Seven Days Battle. In August of that year, he gave the Confederacy a crucial victory at Second Manassas.
But not all went well. He courted disaster when he tried to cross the Potomac, just barely escaping at the bloody battle known as Antietam. In it, nearly 14,000 of his men were captured, wounded or killed.
From July 1 to July 3, 1863, Lee's forces suffered another round of heavy casualties in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The three-day stand-off, known as the Battle of Gettysburg, almost destroyed his army, ending Lee's invasion of the North and helping to turn the war around for the Union.
By the summer of 1864 Ulysses S. Grant had gained the upper hand, decimating much of Richmond, the Confederate's capital, and Petersburg. By early 1865 the fate of the war was clear, a fact driven home on April 2 when Lee was forced to abandon Richmond. A week later, a reluctant and despondent Lee surrendered to Grant at a private home in Appomattox, Virginia.
"I suppose there is nothing for me to do but go and see General Grant," he told an aide. "And I would rather die a thousand deaths."
Saved from being hanged as a traitor by a forgiving Lincoln and Grant, Lee returned to his family in April 1865. He eventually accepted a job as president of a small college in western Virginia, and kept quiet about the nation's politics following the war.
In October of 1870, he suffered a massive stroke. He died at his home, surrounded by family, on October 12.
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