Robert Edward Lee was born on January 19, 1807, in Westmoreland County, Virginia, and was the son of a famed Revolutionary cavalry officer and member of a distinguished family. Lee attended West Point and graduated in 1829 second in his class. In June 1831, he married Mary Ann Randolph Custis, a great-granddaughter of Martha Washington, and the couple became parents of seven children.
Lee was involved with the corps of engineers and served as superintendent at West Point. In October 1859 he led a company of marines who captured John Brown and his followers at Harper’s Ferry.
Even though he was a Southerner, Lee did not believe in slavery and did not favor secession. He was offered command of the active army of the United States in February 1861 but declined the position. He was strongly devoted to the Union but could not bring himself to invade the South. Three days later he accepted command of the forces of Virginia.
In the following years Lee assumed command of the new Army of northern Virginia. He forced General McClellan to retreat from his position that threatened Richmond. He afflicted heavy losses in repulsing the attack at Fredericksburg by General Burnside. He achieved another major victory at Chancellorsville in the spring of 1863.
Lee and his army headed north but met terrible defeat at Gettysburg, which marked the turning point of the war. General Grant began a campaign against Lee in the spring of 1864 with soldiers numbering twice what Lee had. Lee retreated slowly and inflicted heavy losses against Grant while doing so.
General Lee was promoted in early 1865 to general in chief of all Confederate forces. Finally, recognizing that he could retreat no further, General Lee met with General Grant – the first time they met since they served together in the Mexican War. Lee surrendered to Grant on April 9, 1865. Contrary to the usual custom, Grant did not require Lee to surrender his sword.
In October 1865 General Lee became the president of Washington College (later changed to Washington and Lee University) at Lexington, Virginia. He held this post until his death on October 12, 1870. General Lee was a man of great dignity and very worthy to be considered a VIP.