To most Americans, the name Robert E Lee will be one which is very familiar. The decorated war general led Northern Virginia into battle in the American Civil War, representing the Confederacy. He would eventually surrender to Ulysses S Grant, representing the Union, but not without going down in history himself.
1. Battles were in his blood.
General Lee came from a military background. His father, Henry ‘Light-Horse Harry’ Lee, was a war hero, and Robert was the fifth of his children.
2. His father held political office.
Henry Lee was also the governor of Virginia for three years up to 1794.
3. Lincoln tried to get him on side.
President Abraham Lincoln offered Lee the role of commander in the Union Army in the mid-19th Century. However, as we all know, the General turned him down.
4. Why ‘Granny Lee’?
Lee was often known for his complex plans, and he was often known to retreat if there was any chance of men losing their lives without cause. While a noble notion, many referred to him as ‘Granny Lee’ as a result.
5. Leaving the old nicknames behind!
Lee would earn a new nickname, ‘Marse Robert’, after he succeeded over General George B McClellan over the Seven Days’ Battles. Overnight, it seems, Lee’s presence of a wary warrior had transformed into one of commanding respect.
6. Sometimes the best plans are perplexing!
Lee’s intricate tactical planning likely helped America in its triumph over Mexico between 1846 and 1848. Lee was notably present on the frontline in at least four battles and helped America find secret routes through the Mexican defenses.
This would, however, in fact, lead to Lee resigning from the army in 1854, and he gave no clear reason for doing so.
7. Keep racking up the nicknames!
One for claiming nicknames, it seems, by 1862, Lee had earned himself the title of ‘Unconditional Surrender’, following further major victories.
8. Lee married Presidential royalty.
Lee married Mary Custis, who was actually related to the original First Lady of the US, Martha Washington. They would have seven children together.
Custis’ father was very opposed to the marriage occurring at all. This, it’s believed, is as a result of Lee’s criminal record.
9. Lee’s biggest loss was… well, guess.
Lee was eventually forced to surrender against Ulysses S Grant and the Union, therefore ending the Civil War. Many historians believe that Grant’s victory came so easily thanks to the access he had to various artillery.
10. Lee didn’t actually want the Civil War at all.
Believe it or not, Lee was actually opposed to fighting the Civil War, perhaps going alongside his ‘Granny Lee’ image. He felt that the conflict would be extremely hard to fight and actually wanted to pursue more peaceful routes for reconciliation. However, he was a man of loyalty as well as principle and refused to secede to the Union. Unfortunately for Lee and the Confederacy, history tells us exactly what happened next.
11. His legacy lived on beyond the conflict.
Lee wasn’t arrested for his role in the war. However, he did go on to become the President of Washington College before his passing, and he had to give up his right to vote.
FAQs about Robert E Lee
How tall was Robert E Lee?
Robert E Lee was 1.8 meters tall, or five feet nine inches. While not the tallest on the battlefield, he still commanded respect!
Did Robert E Lee have a favorite horse?
Yes - Lee’s favorite horse was called ‘Traveler’. He and Traveler have been depicted together in paintings and monuments over the decades.
Why was the monument of Robert E Lee and Traveler taken down from Gettysburg in 2021?
Do you know any interesting facts about Robert E Lee? Share them in the comments below!