Robert E Lee Essay Example
Robert E Lee Essay Example

Robert E Lee Essay Example

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  • Pages: 4 (899 words)
  • Published: April 19, 2017
  • Type: Autobiography
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Robert E Lee is considered one of the greatest soldiers in history, whose victories outweighed his military losses. He is widely regarded as the epitome of a true American aristocrat (Marshall 1954, 73) and holds a significant place in US history thanks to his ability to overcome any challenge. This paper provides a biographical overview of Robert E Lee, while also analyzing his major contributions to US history.

This is a biography of Robert E. Lee, a renowned historian born on 19th January 1807 in Stratford, Westmoreland County, Virginia. Lee served as a commander in the American War of Independence and acquired admirable traits of patience, control and discipline from his mother, Ann Hill Carter Lee, who played a major role in his upbringing.

Robert experienced his father's inadequate business skills and lack of drive to improve, resulting in fa


iled ventures and a move to Alexandria, Virginia during his youth. Despite facing family issues at a young age, including his mother's illness, Robert had to support the family from the age of twelve. Financial struggles persisted throughout college until he accepted an appointment at the United States Military Academy in 1824.

During this period, Lee excelled in both military and academic pursuits as noted by Nash (245). He fulfilled various roles such as army engineer, officer in the Mexican war, and superintendent at West Point by 1929 after graduating. As leader of the Federal troops, he imposed a censor on John Brown's Harpers Ferry raid. Despite being offered the field command of the Union army, he resigned to head Virginia's troops in the Confederate army according to Marshall (pg. 73).

After marrying Mary Custis, the granddaughter of George Washington

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and Martha Custis Washington, he rose from 2nd Lieutenant to Captain within two years. A war between Americans and Mexico broke out in 1845, and in 1846 Lee became the assistant engineer for the Army of General John E Wool in San Antonio, Texas.

After returning from the Mexican war, Lee, an Army engineer, was tasked with the critical mission of mapping the area for advance troops and even led some into encounter. His actions in this inconsistency earned him a Brevet Colonel title and he spent some years at Fort Caroll in Baltimore. Despite his reluctance, he became Superintendent at West Point in 1852. Later on, Jefferson Davis appointed him Lieutenant-Colonelcy of the 2nd Cavalry in Texas in March 1855. Between 1860 and 1861, Lee was also chosen to command the Department of Texas.

Although Winfield Scott invited Lee to come back to Washington in February 1861, he declined as he did not want to fight against the Southern States. Instead, Lee took on the role of commander for Virginia State forces and later participated in the Mexican War (Connelly 1997, 8). Despite being appointed leader of all Confederate troops in 1865, he surrendered at Appomattox just two months after. Following this event, Lee became president of Washington College located in Lexington, Virginia where he served for several years.

Robert E. Lee passed away from a heart attack on October 12, 1870 at the age of 63 while teaching at Washington College (Marshall 1954, 73). He was a renowned figure in history who made significant contributions by utilizing his engineering skills to effectively organize the mobilization of armed forces and fortify key positions with great determination. In

August of 1861, he adeptly led a large army against General Pope by dividing the two Union armies and sending Jackson to launch attacks on supply depots from the rear.

Lee's notable weakness lay in his battlefield immaturity, particularly in his tendency to hand over strategic decision making to divisional commanders. This approach was deemed a grave error, as evidenced by Lee's ill-fated decision to march into the North in early September with hopes of gaining European recognition for the Confederacy. Though Lee successfully held the line during the battle, he missed out on the opportunity to attain a strategic victory when he failed to counterattack the North. Despite possessing extensive knowledge of combat and military strategy, Lee's actions ultimately resulted in his own former army being pitted against him (Nash 1995, 257).

Lee's most significant achievement in history was the Battle of Chancelorsville in May 1863, where he confronted a larger army led by Joe Hooker. Alongside his most trusted lieutenant, General Jackson, Lee divided his forces and executed a forced march around Hooker, causing him to be vulnerable and fall on his exposed side.

Brinkley (1995, 404) reports that the Union forces endured a memorable defeat. Lee prized his name and lineage, and despite being offered $50,000 to use it after the Civil War ended, he declined citing that his name was an inheritance from his parents and not something to be sold. This refusal occurred during a time when he had very little.

Lee's most notable quote, penned in 1852, was addressed to his son Custis: "Duty is the sublime’s word in our language." Despite facing overwhelming odds and limited resources from the start of the

war, Lee achieved significant success as a General. While his victories held immense value, they were often won through pushing his forces to their limits and leaving them too stretched thin to capitalize on any success.

Despite the necessity of occasionally employing a more authoritarian and dictatorial approach, Lee was perceived as a democratic and consultative leader due to his diplomatic and polite demeanor. His command was preordained, yet he made the most of it, always behaving as a decent and moderate person.

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