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WEEK 21 CARD 1 Robert E. Lee
Robert Edward Lee was born in Virginia, the fifth child of Henry “Light-Horse Harry” Lee (1756-1818) of Revolutionary War fame, by his second wife. In 1829 he was graduated second in his class at West Point without having incurred a single demerit in his four years there.
- Robert secured an appointment to West Point in 1825.
- Graduating second in his class in 1829, with no demerits, he entered the prestigious Engineer Corps.
- Throughout the peace of 1830s and early 1840s, he was assigned to posts from Georgia to New York and rose from second lieutenant to captain.
- In 1831 he married Mary Anna Randolph Custis, great-granddaughter of George Washington’s wife Martha and her first husband, Daniel P. Custis. As a result of wedding Mary, Lee improved his financial position and his name became associated, however distantly, with the Revolutionary War commander and first president, something that added to his reputation during and after the Civil War.
Robert E. Lee in the Mexican War
Commissioned in the Corps of Engineers, he served as a captain under General Winfield Scott in the Mexican War, in which he distinguished himself in the battles of Veracruz, Churubusco, and Chapultepec. He was slightly wounded in that war and earned three brevets to colonel. General Scott declared him to be “the very best soldier that I ever saw in the field.”
Lee as Superintendent of West Point
On September 1, 1852, he became superintent of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, where he oversaw changes to the curriculum and added a fifth year to the traditional four. In 1855, Congress authorized the formation of four new regiments and Lee, leaving the engineers where promotion was slow, became a lieutenant colonel in charge of the 2nd Cavalry Regiment. For the next six years, he was stationed with them in Texas, primarily overseeing operations against the Comanches and performing staff duties.
In October 1859, while Lee was on one of several trips east to settle the estate of his wife’s father, radical abolitionist John Brown and a band of followers seized the U.S. arsenal at Harper’s Ferry, Virginia. The War Department ordered Lee to handle the situation and, leading a U.S. Marine detachment, he quickly recaptured the arsenal.
Lee Enters The Civil War With The Confederacy
On April 20, 1861, at the outbreak of the American Civil War, he resigned his commission and three days later was appointed by Governor John Letcher of Virginia to be commander in chief of the military and naval forces of the state. When Virginia’s troops were transferred to the Confederate service, he became, on May 14, 1861, a brigadier general, the highest rank then authorized. Soon after he was promoted to full general.
General Lee Takes Command of the Army
Lee’s first field command was in the western part of the state, where he failed to hold back invading Union forces in an area of strong pro-Union sentiment. He was recalled to Richmond, and from March 1862 he was military adviser to President Davis. From this position he was able to influence some operations, notably those of General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson in his Shenandoah Valley campaign.
WEEK 21 CARD 2 Robert E. Lee Surrenders to Ulysses Grant
At Appomattox, Virginia, Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrenders his 28,000 troops to Union General Ulysses S. Grant, effectively ending the American Civil War. Forced to abandon the Confederate capital of Richmond, blocked from joining the surviving Confederate force in North Carolina, and harassed constantly by Union cavalry, Lee had no other option.
On April 9, Lee sent a message to Grant announcing his willingness to surrender. The two generals met in the parlor of the Wilmer McLean home at one o’clock in the afternoon.
Lee and Grant, both holding the highest rank in their respective armies, had known each other slightly during the Mexican War and exchanged awkward personal inquiries. Characteristically, Grant arrived in his muddy field uniform while Lee had turned out in full dress attire, complete with sash and sword. Lee asked for the terms, and Grant hurriedly wrote them out. All officers and men were to be pardoned, and they would be sent home with their private property–most important, the horses, which could be used for a late spring planting. Officers would keep their side arms, and Lee’s starving men would be given Union rations.
After the war he became president of Washington College (today, Washington and Lee University) in Lexington, Virginia. He applied to have his citizenship restored, but the application was mislaid. It was found in 1970 and granted. He died in Lexington of heart disease on October 12, 1870. His last words were said to have been: “Strike the tent.”
WEEK 21 CARD 3 Abraham Lincoln’s Assassination
On April 14, 1865, John Wilkes Booth, a famous actor and Confederate sympathizer, fatally shot President Abraham Lincoln at a play at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C. The attack came only five days after Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered his massive army at Appomattox Court House, Virginia, effectively ending the American Civil War.
Abraham Lincoln’s killer, John Wilkes Booth, was a Maryland native born in 1838 who remained in the North during the Civil War despite his Confederate sympathies. As the conflict entered its final stages, he and several associates hatched a plot to kidnap the president and take him to Richmond, the Confederate capital. However, on March 20, 1865, the day of the planned kidnapping, Lincoln failed to appear at the spot where Booth and his six fellow conspirators lay in wait. Two weeks later, Richmond fell to Union forces. In April, with Confederate armies near collapse across the South, Booth came up with a desperate plan to save the Confederacy.
Lincoln occupied a private box above the stage with his wife Mary, a young army officer named Henry Rathbone and Rathbone’s fiancé, Clara Harris, the daughter of New York Senator Ira Harris. The Lincolns arrived late for the comedy, but the president was reportedly in a fine mood and laughed heartily during the production.
At 10:15, Booth slipped into the box and fired his .44-caliber single-shot derringer into the back of Lincoln’s head. After stabbing Rathbone, who immediately rushed at him, in the shoulder, Booth leapt onto the stage and shouted, “Sic semper tyrannis!” (“Thus ever to tyrants!”–the Virginia state motto). At first, the crowd interpreted the unfolding drama as part of the production, but a scream from the first lady told them otherwise. Although Booth broke his leg in the fall, he managed to leave the theater and escape from Washington on horseback.
Vice President Andrew Johnson, members of Lincoln’s cabinet and several of the president’s closest friends stood vigil by Lincoln’s bedside until he was officially pronounced dead at 7:22 a.m. The first lady lay on a bed in an adjoining room with her eldest son Robert at her side, overwhelmed with shock and grief.