Great leader and brilliant Confederate General, Robert Edward Lee (1807-1870) was born on this day in Westmoreland County, Virginia. The son of a Revolutionary War hero, Lee graduated second in his class at West Point.
"Never do a wrong thing to make a friend or to keep one," he said.
Lee fought in the Mexican War and was called by his commander "the very best soldier I ever saw in the field." After the war, he became superintendent of West Point (1852-1855) and sought to raise the school's academic standards.
Before the start of the Civil War, he freed all of his slaves. The bold and daring commander was so highly regarded that Abraham Lincoln repeatedly offered Lee command of the Union armies. Lee, of course, resigned, joined the Confederates, and became Jefferson Davis's personal military advisor.
"A true man of honor feels humbled himself when he cannot help humbling others," Lee said. After the war, he urged Southerners to accept defeat with dignity and work to restore the country's unity.
"We failed, but in the good providence of God apparent failure often proves a blessing."
On the 100th Anniversary of Lee's birth, then President Theodore Roosevelt praised the general's "dauntless courage and high leadership" and said, "He stood the hardest of all strains, the strain of bearing himself well through the grey evening of failure... (H)e helped to rebuild the wonderful and mighty triumph of our national life."
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