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Lee, Robert Edward 1807-

Military officer; born in Stratford, Westmoreland co., Va., Jan. 19, 1807; son of Gen. Henry Lee; graduated at the United States Military Academy, second in his class, in 1829. Entering the engineer corps, he became captain in July, 1838, and was chief engineer of General Wool's brigade in the war with Mexico. At the close of that war he had earned three brevets—major, lieutenant-colonel, and colonel; and he was a great favorite with General Scott. From Sept. 3, 1852, to March 3, 1855, he was superintendent of the Military Academy. In the latter year he was promoted to lieutenant-colonel of cavalry, and in March, 1861, to colonel. Accepting the doctrine of State supremacy when Virginia passed an ordinance of secession, in April, 1861, Lee went to Richmond, accepted (April 22, 1861) the command of the forces in that commonwealth, and resigned his commission in the National army. In accepting the office of commander of the Virginia forces, he said: “Trusting in Almighty God, an approving conscience, and the aid of my fellowcitizens, I devote myself to the aid of my native State, in whose behalf alone will I ever draw my sword.” Lee's services had always been very acceptable to his government. He was an officer of fine culture, a soldier brave and discreet, and an engineer of great skill. He had superintended the construction and repairs of the forts at the entrance to the harbor of New York after 1841, and was a member of the board of engineers of the Atlantic coast defence. He had married, in 1832, Mary, daughter of G. W. P. Custis, the adopted son of Washington, and by her, in 1857, he became possessor of the estate of Arlington, opposite Georgetown, on the Potomac, and the “White House” estate, on the Pamunkey. He was in command of a regiment of cavalry in Texas in 1860, and towards the close of that year he obtained leave of absence and returned home, where he was when appointed to the command of the Virginia forces.

For a while he did not have a separate command in the field, and for more than a year did not fill any important place in the Confederate army. He was nominally superintendent of fortifications at Richmond and elsewhere, and was the military adviser of President Jefferson Davis and of the Confederate Secretary of War. When Gen. Joseph E. Johnston was wounded (May 31, 1862), in the battle of Seven Pines, near Richmond, the command of the Confederate army of Northern Virginia was given to Lee, June 3, and on the 26th of that month he began the series of conflicts before Richmond known as the Seven Days Battles. He was finally compelled to surrender his army to General Grant at Appomattox Courthouse, April 9, 1865, on most generous terms for himself and his followers. He had been appointed general-in-chief of the Confederate armies in February preceding. After the war he retired to private life, refusing even to attend public gatherings of any kind. In October, 1865, he accepted the presidency of Washington College (now Washington and Lee University), at Lexington, Va., which he held [348] until his death, Oct. 12, 1870. Lee's sons —G. W. Custis, W. H. F., and Robert E. —all served as officers in the Confederate army. His eldest son, G. W. C. Lee, was chosen president of the college on the death of his father.

In the summer of 1861 General Reynolds had been left by Rosecrans to confront General Lee in the Cheat Mountain region. Lee was then in chief command in western Virginia. He had sent General Floyd to drive the Nationals out of the Kanawha Valley, but the latter was defeated (Sept. 11) at Carnifex Ferry, and fled to Big Sewell Mountain. Reynolds's command consisted of Indiana and Ohio troops. With them he held the roads and passes of the mountains of the more westerly ranges of the Alleghany chain. His headquarters were at Cheat Mountain pass, and Lee's were at Huntersville, in Pocahontas county. It was evident early in September, by the activity of Lee's scouts, that he was preparing to strike a blow somewhere. It was finally made clear that he was about to strike the Nationals at Elk Water, at the western foot of Cheat Mountain. His object evidently was to secure the great Cheat Mountain pass, and have free communication with the Shenandoah Valley. For this purpose he marched from Huntersville, in the night of Sept. 11, to make a simultaneous attack on Elk Water, the pass, and a station of Indiana troops on the summit, under Colonel Kimball. About 5,000 Confederates, under General Anderson, of Tennessee, attempted to take the summit and the pass, but were repulsed. On the 12th Lee advanced in heavy force upon Elk Water, but was driven back. He was satisfied that his plan for seizing and destroying Reynolds's army and opening a way to the Ohio had failed, and he hastened to join Floyd on Big Sewell Mountain, between the forks of the Kanawha. In the encounters during two or three days, Reynolds lost ten men killed, fourteen wounded, and sixty-four made prisoners. The Confederates lost about 100 killed and wounded, and ninety prisoners. The joint forces of Lee and Floyd, on Big Sewell Mountain, numbered about 20,000 men, and there they were confronted by 10,000 Nationals, under Rosecrans, assisted by Generals Cox, Schenck, and Benham. The belligerents remained in sight of each other for about three weeks. Wise, then under Lee's command, was recalled to Richmond. Lee's campaign in western Virginia was regarded by the Confederate government as a failure, and he, too, was soon afterwards recalled and sent to South Carolina, where he planned and partially constructed the coast defensive works. See Charleston.

After his disastrous experience at Gettysburg (July 1, 2, and 3, 1863), General Lee began a retreat for Virginia on the night of the 5th, having previously sent forward his enormous wagon-trains and sick and wounded men. Sedgwick's corps and Kilpatrick's cavalry were sent in pursuit. Sedgwick overtook the Confederate rear-guard at a pass in the South Mountain range, but was recalled, and the whole army, having rested, were put in motion for a flank movement through the lower passes of South Mountain. But the movement was so tardy that when Meade overtook Lee (July 12) he was strongly intrenched on the banks of the Potomac, near Williamsport, waiting for a flood in the river, caused by recent rains, to subside. While Meade was preparing to attack Lee, the latter escaped over the river. General Hill's rear-guard had been struck by Kilpatrick, and lost 125 men killed and 1,500 made prisoners. Kilpatrick's loss was 105 men. Thus ended, in utter discomfiture and repulse, Lee's second formidable invasion of Maryland.

Lee's final struggle.

While the Confederates were leaving Richmond, Lee's army was withdrawing from Petersburg. He hoped to conduct his army to Danville, on the southern borders of Virginia, whither his government had fled. He appointed Amelia Court-house as the point for the concentration of his army. There his forces would reach the Danville Railway, and thereafter use it in their flight into North Carolina . At the time when he sent his despatch for the evacuation of Richmond he ordered commissary and quartermaster's stories to be sent from Danville to Amelia Court-house for the use of his army. They were promptly forwarded; but when the officer in charge reached Amelia Court-house he received [349]

General Robert E. Lee.

[350] orders from Richmond to hasten thither with his train. The stupid fellow obeyed, but took with him the supplies. The government, in its flight, occupied the whole train. The stores were left at Richmond and destroyed in the conflagrations. Lee was almost hopeless when he discovered this calamity, for it threatened his army with starvation. He knew that Grant, for the sake of celerity in pursuit, would break up his army into detachments; and Lee hoped, by a bountifully supplied army well in hand, to fall upon these fragments and cut up the National army in detail. Now he was compelled to detach nearly one-half of his army to forage for supplies to keep his forces from starving.

Grant, meanwhile, bad taken possession of Petersburg, and his army moved in vigorous pursuit. Sheridan's cavalry and Warren's corps struck the Danville Railway (April 4, 1865) at Jetersville, 7 miles southwest of Amelia Court-house. Some of his cavalry then pushed on to Burkesville Station, at the junction of that road with the Southside Railway. Sheridan now stood squarely across Lee's pathway of retreat, and held possession of his chief channel of supplies from Lynchburg and Danville. Lee attempted to escape by way of Farmville. Sheridan sent General Davies on a reconnaissance, who found part of Lee's army moving westward (April 5), his cavalry escorting a train of 180 wagons. Davies fell upon the escort, captured many men and five guns, and destroyed the wagons. Lee's accompanying infantry had pressed Davies for a while, but, reinforced by Generals Gregg and Smith, he extricated himself. On the morning of the 6th nearly the whole of the Army of the Potomac were at Jetersville, and moved upon Amelia Court-house. Sheridan discovered Lee's army moving rapidly westward, and made a rapid pursuit, in three columns. Great efforts were made to check Lee's retreat. He was smitten severely at Sailor's Creek, a small tributary of the Appomattox, where another train of 400 wagons, sixteen guns, and many men were captured. By this blow Ewell's corps, following the train, was cut off from Lee's main army. Very soon afterwards that corps was captured, Ewell and four other generals and 6,000 veterans becoming prisoners. With his dreadfully shattered army, Lee crossed the Appomattox that night (Aug. 6 and 7) at Farmville, setting fire to bridges behind him. They were not all consumed. The Nationals crossed and captured eighteen guns abandoned by a rear-guard. Lee's troops and animals were perishing for want of food. Thousands let their muskets fall because they were too weak to carry them and walk. Lee would not listen to a proposition of his officers to give up the contest, and resolved to make further efforts to escape. Nearly the whole of Grant's army joined in vigorous pursuit of the Confederates, and Lee surrendered at Appomattox Court-house. April 9, 1865.

Terms of the surrender.

The following is the correspondence that passed between Generals Grant and Lee, which resulted in the surrender of the army of the latter:


April 7.
Gen. R. E. Lee, Commander, C. S. A.:
Sir,—The result of the last week must convince you of the hopelessness of further resistance on the part of the Army of Northern Virginia in this struggle. I feel that it is so, and regard it as my duty to shift from myself the responsibility of any further effusion of blood by asking of you the surrender of that portion of the Confederate States army known as the Army of Northern Virginia.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant, U. S. Grant, Lieutenant-General, Commanding Armies of the United States.


April 7.
General,—I have received your note of this date. Though not entirely of the opinion you express of the hopelessness of further resistance on the part of the Army of Northern Virginia, I reciprocate your desire to avoid useless effusion of blood, and, therefore, before considering your proposition, ask the terms you will offer on condition of its surrender.

R. E. Lee, General. To Lieut.-Gen. U. S. Grant, Commanding Armies of the United States.



April 8.
To Gen. R. E. Lee, Commanding Confederate States Army:
General,—Your note of last evening, in reply to mine of same date, asking the conditions on which I will accept the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia, is just received.

In reply, I would say that, peace being my first desire, there is but one condition that I insist upon—viz.:

That the men surrendered shall be disqualified for taking up arms against the government of the United States until properly exchanged.

I will meet you, or designate officers to meet any officers you may name for the same purpose, at any point agreeable to you, for the purpose of arranging definitely the terms upon which the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia will be received.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant, U. S. Grant, Lieutenant-General, Commanding Armies of the United States.


April 8.
General,—I received, at a late hour, your note of to-day in answer to mine of yesterday.

I did not intend to propose the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia, but to ask the terms of your proposition. To be frank, I do not think the emergency has arisen to call for the surrender. But, as the restoration of peace should be the sole object of all, I desire to know whether your proposals would tend to that end.

I cannot, therefore, meet you with a view to surrender the Army of Northern Virginia, but so far as your proposition may affect the Confederate States forces under my command, and lead to the restoration of peace, I should be pleased to meet you at 10 A. M. to-morrow on the old stage-road to Richmond, between the picket-lines of the two armies.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant, R. E. Lee, General, Confederate States Armies. To Lieutenant-General Grant, Commanding Armies of the United States.


April 9.
General R. E. Lee, Commanding C. S. A.:
General,—Your note of yesterday is received. As I have no authority to treat on the subject of peace, the meeting proposed for 10 A. M. to-day could lead to no good. I will state, however, general, that I am equally anxious for peace with yourself; and the whole North entertain the same feeling. The terms upon which peace can be had are well understood. By the South laying down their arms they will hasten that most desirable event, save thousands of human lives, and hundreds of millions of property not yet destroyed.

Sincerely hoping that all our difficulties may be settled without the loss of another life, I subscribe myself,

Very respectfully, your obedient servant, U. S. Grant, Lieutenant-General, U. S. A.


April 9, 1865.
General,—I received your note of this morning on the picket-line, whither I had come to meet you and ascertain definitely what terms were embraced in your proposition of yesterday with reference to the surrender of this army.

I now request an interview in accordance with the offer contained in your letter of yesterday for that purpose.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant, R. E. Lee, General. To Lieutenant-General Grant, Commanding United States Armies.


April 9.
General R. E. Lee, Commanding Confederate States Armies:
Your note of this date is but this moment (11.50 A. M.) received.

In consequence of my having passed from the Richmond and Lynchburg road to the Farmville and Lynchburg road, I am at this writing about 4 miles west of Walter's Church, and will push forward to the front for the purpose of meeting you.

Notice sent to me on this road where you wish the interview to take place will meet me. [352]

Very respectfully, your obedient servant, U. S. Grant, Lieutenant-General.


Appomattox Court-House, April 9, 1865.
Gen. R. E. Lee, Commanding C. S. A.:
In accordance with the substance of my letter to you of the 8th inst., I

Chair in which General Lee sat when signing the surrender.

propose to receive the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia on the following terms, to wit:

Rolls of all the officers and men to be made in duplicate, one copy to be given to an officer designated by me, the other to be retained by such officers as you may designate.

The officers to give their individual parole not to take arms against the government of the United States until properly exchanged; and each company or regimental commander to sign a like parole for the men of their commands.

The arms, artillery, and public property to be parked and stacked, and turned over to the officers appointed by me to receive them.

This will not embrace the side-arms of the officers, nor their private horses or baggage.

This done, each officer and man will be allowed to return to their homes, not to be disturbed by United States authority so long as they observe their parole and the laws in force where they may reside.

Very respectfully, U. S. Grant, Lieutenant-General.


headquarters army of Northern Virginia. April 9, 1865.
Lieut.-Gen. U. S. Grant, Commanding, U. S. A.:
General,—I have received your letter of this date, containing the terms of surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia, as proposed by you. As they are substantially the same as those expressed in your letter of the 8th inst., they are accepted. I will proceed to designate the proper officers to carry the stipulations into effect.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant, R. E. Lee, General.

On the day of the surrender General Lee addressed the following farewell to the Army of Northern Virginia:

headquarters army of Northern Virginia, April 10, 1865.
After four years of arduous service, marked by unsurpassed courage and fortitude, the Army of Northern Virginia has been compelled to yield to overwhelming numbers and resources.

I need not tell the survivors of so

Table on which the surrender was signed.


General Lee leaving after the surrender.

many hard-fought battles, who have remained steadfast to the last, that I have consented to this result from no distrust of them; but feeling that valor and devotion could accomplish nothing that could compensate for the loss that would have attended the continuation of the contest, I have determined to avoid the useless sacrifice of those whose past services have endeared them to their countrymen.

By the terms of agreement, officers and men can return to their homes, and remain there until exchanged.

You will take with you the satisfaction that proceeds from the consciousness of duty faithfully performed; and I earnestly pray that a merciful God will [354] extend to you His blessing and protection.

With an unceasing admiration of your constancy and devotion to your country, and a grateful remembrance of your kind and generous consideration of myself, I bid you an affectionate farewell.

R. E. Lee, General.

At the final act of surrender, General Lee was not present. It was executed by commissioners designated for the purpose, who acceded to the following agreement:

Appomattox Court-House, Va., April 10, 1865.
Agreement entered into this day, in regard to the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia to the United States authorities.

First. The troops shall march by brigades and detachments to a designated point; stack their arms; deposit their flags, sabres, pistols, etc.; and from thence march to their homes, under charge of their officers, superintended by their respective division and corps commanders, officers retaining their side-arms and the authorized number of private horses.

Second. All public horses, and public property of all kinds, to be turned over to staff-officers to be designated by the United States authorities.

Third. Such transportation as may be agreed upon as necessary for the transportation of the private baggage of officers will be allowed to accompany the officers, to be turned over, at the end of the trip, to the nearest United States quartermaster, receipts being taken for the same.

Fourth. Couriers and mounted men of the artillery and cavalry, whose horses are their own private property, will be allowed to retain them.

Fifth. The surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia shall be construed to include all the forces operating with that army on the 8th instant, the date of the commencement of the negotiations for surrender, except such bodies of cavalry as actually made their escape previous to the surrender; and except, also, such pieces of artillery as were more than 20 miles from Appomattox Court-house at the time of surrender on the 9th instant.

(Signed) John Gibbon, Major-General Volunteers. Charles Griffin, Brevet Major-General U. S. V. M. Merritt, Brevet Major-General. J. Longstreet, Lieutenant-General. J. B. Gibbon, Major-General. W. N. Pendleton, Brigadier-General and Chief of Artillery.

The following is a copy of the parole signed by General Lee and his staffofficers:

We, the undersigned, prisoners of war belonging to the Army of Northern Virginia, having been this day surrendered by Gen. R. E. Lee, commanding said army, to Lieutenant-General Grant, commanding the armies of the United States, do hereby give our solemn parole of honor that we will not hereafter serve in the armies of the Confederate States, or in any military capacity whatsoever against the United States of America, or render aid to the enemies of the latter, until properly exchanged in such manner as shall be mutually approved by the relative authorities.

R. E. Lee, General. W. H. Taylor. Lieutenant-Colonel and Assistant Adjutant-General. Chas. S. Veneable, Lieutenant-Colonel and Assistant Adjutant-General. Chas. Marshall. Lieutenant-Colonel and Assistant Adjutant-General. H. E. Praton, Lieutenant-Colonel and Inspector-General. Giles Brooke, Major and Acting Assistant Surgeon-General. H. S. Young, Assistant Adjutant-General. Done at Appomattox Court-house. Va., this ninth (9) day of April. 1865.

The parole was countersigned as follows:

The above-named officers will not be disturbed by United States authorities as long as they observe their parole and the laws in force where they may reside.

Geo. H. Sharpe, General, and Assistant Provost-Marshal.

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