The white haired general standing proud with his saber on his hip.General Robert Edward Lee joined the Confederate Army to protect Virginia on April 23, 1861 as colonel and was quickly promoted to be one of the first five full generals of the Confederate Army.  His first assignment were a few small battles before he was sent to strengthen the defenses along the coasts of South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida.  His defenses stopped the Union attack on Savannah, Georgia, which would have to be taken by land in order for it to fall into Union hands, which happened late in the war.  Although unpopular with the press, he was appointed military adviser to the Confederate president for a few months.

When General Joseph Johnston was wounded on June 1, 1862, Lee assumed command of the Army of Northern Virgina, the first command where he had the opportunity to actually command on the battlefield.  It wasn’t long before General McClellan invaded the South in what was dubbed the Peninsula Campaign and Lee sent him back North.  Although the Seven Days Battle is considered to show clumsy planning by his commanders, Lee’s aggressive action was not part of McClellan’s plan and he returned to Washington to regroup.  Lincoln then sent Pope down to invade the South and Lee sent him North again at the Second Battle of Bull Run and the Confederate Army was within miles of Washington, DC.  Lee decided to invade Maryland to get supplies and ruin the Northern morale but McClellan found some of the orders and set out to stop Lee.  What resulted was the Battle of Antietam, the bloodiest day in the American Civil War.  Although officially a draw, it was Lee who had to withdraw and return to friendlier territory.  Lee continued to lead the army successfully until mid-1863.  While Grant was heading for Vicksburg, Lee convinced President Davis to go against everyone else’s advice and let Lee invade the North again.  The plan was to go into Pennsylvania to get much needed supplies and to get the Northerners to push harder for peace.  The result was the Battle of Gettysburg, which the Confederate Army never recovered from.  With the western border of the Confederacy moved eastward with the fall of Vicksburg and the huge number of losses at Gettysburg, the men and supplies couldn’t be replaced.  Over the next year General Grant kept attacking.  He realized that while he had a lot of young men that could replace those dying in battle or of illness, as well as supplies from the states that had yet to be touched by battle, the Southern resources were running low and the men were deserting to protect their own families.

Robert E Lee was appointed General-in-Chief of the Confederate Army on January 31, 1865 and surrendered to the Union Army on April 9, 1865.  Many people called for the war to continue by small groups of soldiers disappearing into the hills and conducting guerrilla warfare until the Federal Government surrendered but Lee disagreed and the plan was scrapped.  Lee thought that the time for war was over, it was time to heal the country.

Filed under: American Civil War factsConfederate MenMen of the WarVirginia

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