Century Collection: General Robert E. Lee
Matted to include an authentic Civil War bullet
Robert Edward Lee (January 19, 1807 Ð October 12, 1870) was a career U.S. Army officer and the most celebrated general of the Confederate forces during the American Civil War. Lee's greatest victories were the Seven Days Battles, the Second Battle of Bull Run, the Battle of Fredericksburg, and the Battle of Chancellorsville, but both of his campaigns to invade the North ended in failure. Barely escaping defeat at the Battle of Antietam in 1862, Lee was forced to return to Virginia. In early July 1863, Lee was decisively defeated at the Battle of Gettysburg in Pennsylvania. However, due to ineffectual pursuit by the commander of Union forces, Maj. Gen. George Meade, Lee escaped again to Virginia. Lee's victories against superior forces won him enduring fame as a crafty and daring battlefield tactician, but his strategic decisions, such as invading the North in 1862 and 1863 and overlooking the Mississippi Valley, have generally been criticized by military historians. In the final months of the Civil War, as manpower reserves drained away, Lee adopted a plan to arm slaves to fight on behalf of the Confederacy, but this came too late to change the outcome of the war. After Appomattox, Lee discouraged Southern dissenters from starting a guerrilla campaign to continue the war, and encouraged reconciliation between the North and South.