Robert E. Lee and His Family, by John W. Wayland, Chapter 1

Robert E. Lee and His Family

Chapter I

Robert Edward Lee, fifth child and fourth son of Gen. Henry (“Lighthorse Harry”) Lee and his second wife, Anne Hill Carter, was born at Stratford, the historic Lee homestead in Westmoreland County, Va., January 19, 1807. Within the next few years the family moved to Alexandria; there Robert grew up and attended school. After the death of his father in 1818 he was the mainstay of his invalid mother. In 1824–25, when preparing for West Point, he was a pupil in the school of Benjamin Hallowell, in Alexandria, where he devoted himself especially to the study of mathematics. He entered West Point in 1825 and graduated in 1829, second in his class.

Upon graduation he was made a second lieutenant of engineers in the U.S. Army, and in 1835 he served upon a commission for settling the boundary between Ohio and Michigan. In 1836 he was made a first lieutenant and in 1838 a captain. In 1846 he was appointed chief engineer on the staff of General Wool in Mexico where he rendered distinguished service and was brevetted colonel. In the battle of Chapultepec, September, 1847, he was wounded. From 1852 to 1855 he was superintendent of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. Most of the time from 1858 to 1861 he served with Col. Albert Sydney Johnston in Texas in campaigns against the Indians, with occasional periods on leave. In October, 1859, while at Arlington, he was put in command of a company of marines and sent to Harper’s Ferry where he captured John Brown and some of his men. By 1861 Colonel Lee was regarded by General Winfield Scott as the ablest soldier and military engineer in the United States.

On June 30, 1831, Lee, then a lieutenant, had married Mary Anne Randolph Custis, the only daughter of George Washington Parke Custis of Arlington, the Custis home on the Potomac opposite Washington City. They became the parents of three sons: Custis, Fitzhugh (“Rooney”), and Robert; and four daughters: Mary Custis, Anne Carter, Eleanor Agnes, and Mildred Chiles. Their home was at Arlington until 1861, when Colonel Lee resigned his commission in the U.S. Army and went to Richmond to enter the service of the Confederacy.

The summer and autumn of 1865, following the close of the war, General Lee, Mrs. Lee, their son Gen. Custis Lee, and their daughters Agnes and Mildred spent at Derwent, a country home in Powhatan County, Va. In the latter part of September, 1865, General Lee went to Lexington to enter upon his duties as president of Washington College, now Washington and Lee University. There he was joined by Mrs. Lee and her daughters early in December, and there he lived and worked until his death, October 12, 1870.

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