Biography of Gen. Robert E. Lee
US military leader, Confederate commander in the American Civil War, and military strategist. In 1859 he suppressed John Brown's raid on Harper's Ferry. Lee had freed his own slaves long before the war began, and he was opposed to secession, however his devotion to his native Virginia led him to join the Confederacy. At the outbreak of war he became military adviser to Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederacy, and in 1862 commander of the Army of Northern Virginia. Lee actually had been offered command of the Union armies, but he resigned his commission to return to Virginia. During 1862-63 he made several raids into Northern territory but after his defeat at Gettysburg was compelled to take the defensive; he surrendered 1865 at Appomattox.
Lee graduated from West Point and distinguished himself in the Mexican War 1846-48. In 1861 he joined the army of the Confederacy of Southern states; in 1862 he received the command of the Army of Northern Virginia and won the Seven Days' Battle defending Richmond, Virginia, the Confederate capital, against General McClellan's Union forces. In 1863 Lee won victories at Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville, both in Virginia, and in 1864 at Cold Harbor, Virginia, but was besieged in Petersburg, Virginia, June 1864-April 1865. He surrendered to General Grant on April 9, 1865, at Appomattox Courthouse. Following the war he was paroled and served as president of Washington College (now Washington and Lee University). His home had been seized by Union forces and now is part of Arlington National Cemetery.