The Civil War
Robert E. Lee (1807-1870) was one of the most talented and successful generals of the Civil War. After graduating from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1846, Lee fought in the Mexican-American War, where he showed his excellent leadership skills. In 1859, he was in command of the force that captured abolitionist John Brown at Harper's Ferry, Virginia. Though he was against secession, he declined Lincoln's offer to command the Union Army, instead declaring his allegiance to his home state of Virginia. Lee commanded the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia until his surrender to General Grant at Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865.
Given the almost impossible task of defeating a larger and better-equipped northern army, Lee used brilliant and aggressive tactics to defeat his enemies. At the Battle of Chancellorsville in 1863, he daringly divided his army and won a decisive victory, paving the way for his second invasion of the North. The ensuing Battle of Gettysburg, however, turned into a disaster when Lee ordered a huge frontal assault at the middle of the northern line, a doomed attack known to history as Pickett's Charge. The South never recovered from the losses of that day, and Lee spent the remainder of the war doing his best to hold off the inevitable. His surrender after the nine-month siege of Petersburg ended all major southern resistance. Lee is still remembered as a great hero of the southern cause.