October 12

This Day in History

Civil War

Oct 12, 1870:

Confederate leader Robert E. Lee dies

General Robert Edward Lee, the commander of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia, dies peacefully at his home in Lexington, Virginia. He was 63 years old.

Lee was born to Henry Lee and Ann Carter Lee at Stratford Hall, Virginia, in 1807. His father served in the American Revolution under George Washington and was later a governor of Virginia. Robert Lee attended the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and graduated second in his class in 1829. He did not earn a single demerit during his four years at the academy. Afterward, Lee embarked on a military career, eventually fighting in the Mexican War (1846-48) and later serving as the superintendent of West Point. 

When the Civil War broke out in 1861, Lee sided with the Confederacy and spent the first year of the war as an advisor to Confederate President Jefferson Davis. He assumed command of the Army of Northern Virginia when Joseph Johnston was wounded in battle in May 1862. Over the next three years, Lee earned a reputation for his brilliant tactics and battlefield leadership. However, his invasions of the North, at Antietam in Maryland and Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, ended in defeat.

After Lee surrendered his army at Appomattox Court House, Virginia, in 1865, he returned to Richmond, Virginia, and an uncertain future. With his military career over, he accepted the presidency of Washington College in Lexington, Virginia. Under his leadership, the struggling institution's enrollment increased from a few dozen to more than 300 students. He contributed to faculty stability, revamped the curriculum, and improved the physical condition of the campus. He also became a symbol of the defeated South, a dignified and stoic figure who was lionized by North and South alike. Lee suffered a stroke on September 28, 1870, and lingered for two weeks before passing. The school changed its name to Washington and Lee College soon after he died.

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This Week in History, Oct 12 - Oct 18

Oct 12, 1870
Robert E. Lee dies
Oct 13, 1863
Ohio voters reject Vallandigham
Oct 14, 1863
Battle of Bristoe Station
Oct 15, 1863
C.S.S. Hunley sinks during tests
Oct 16, 1859
John Brown's raid on Harpers Ferry
Oct 17, 1864
Longstreet returns to command
Oct 18, 1863
General Sickles visits his troops

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