Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Happy Birthday General Lee!

Today marks the anniversary of one of the Confederacy's most beloved generals, Robert E. Lee, who was born in 1807. His childhood birthplace, Stratford Hall Plantation in Virginia, still exists and has been restored to its original condition. It is rumored that when young Robert moved away at age four, he ran to the angel carving above the fireplace and kissed it goodbye.

Lee graduated from West Point at the top of his class in 1829 and embarked on a career as a civil engineer. He married Mary Custis at Arlington on June 30, 1831. The couple had seven children over the course of the next thirty years. Upon the onset of the Civil War, Lee was a colonel with the U.S. Army. He resigned his position to join the Confederacy, and was named general within months. The next four years would take a terrible toll on his country, his health, and his family. Despite his age, General Lee led his soldiers to victory many times, and his men loved him like a father, affectionately calling him "Marse Robert."

Following Appomattox, Lee avoided arrest and was appointed president of Washington College (now Washington and Lee University) in Lexington, Virginia. He served until his death five years later, on September 28, 1870. His citizenship was restored by President Gerald Ford on January 30, 1975.

General Lee, a deeply religious man, was admired for his dignity and devotion to duty, not to mention his military genius. Many southern states honor his birthday with observed holidays. He is immortalized in a carving on Stone Mountain, Georgia, as well as numerous statues and paintings.

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