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[54] both sides he came of the best stock of his native State. When he was four years old, his father removed to Alexandria in order to secure better schooling for the eight children. Later, the old soldier was compelled to go to the West Indies and the South in search of health, and it came to pass that Robert, though a mere boy, was obliged to constitute himself the nurse and protector of his invalid mother. The beautiful relation thus established accounts in part for the blended dignity and charm of his character. It does not account for his choice of a profession, but perhaps that is sufficiently explained by the genius for the soldier's calling which he must have inherited from his father. As with Milton before him, the piety and purity of his youth were inseparably combined with grace and strength.

He entered West Point in 1825 on an appointment secured by Andrew Jackson, and he graduated four years later with the second highest honors of the class and an extraordinarily perfect record. Appointed second lieutenant of engineers, he hastened home to receive the blessing of his dying mother. Two years later (June, 1831), after work on the fortifications at Hampton Roads, he was married, at the beautiful estate of Arlington on the Potomac, to Mary Randolph Custis, granddaughter of Washington's wife, a lovely and accomplished young woman destined to be a fitting helpmeet. As his father-in-law was wealthy, Lee, who loved country life, must have been tempted to settle down at Arlington to manage the estate that would one day pass to his wife, but his genuine devotion to his profession prevailed, and he went on building coast defenses.

In 1834, he was transferred to Washington as first lieutenant assisting the chief engineer of the army. He was thus enabled to live at Arlington, but, while in no sense of the term a society man, he also saw something of life at the capital. Three years later he was sent West to superintend work on the upper Mississippi. His plans were approved and well carried

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