Biography (Dictionary of World Biography: The 19th Century)
Article abstract: Perhaps the finest army tactician of his generation, Lee, by his brilliant command of the Army of Northern Virginia, prolonged the life of the Confederacy during the Civil War.
Last in the long line of the famous Lees of Virginia and fifth of seven children, Robert Edward Lee was born at the family estate of Stratford. His father, Colonel Henry “Light Horse” Harry Lee, had served with distinction as a cavalryman in the Revolutionary War and later as governor of Virginia, although he was financially insecure. His mother, Anne Hill Carter Lee, belonged to another aristocratic Virginia family. The family moved to Alexandria in Robert’s fourth year, and he attended the local schools there. Because of the long absences and then the death of his father, Robert gradually took over the major care of his invalid mother. This intimate relationship shaped young Lee’s character as one of quiet dignity, high moral integrity, and personal strength.
Desiring to emulate his father and to obtain a free education, Lee attended the United States Military Academy at West Point, where he performed as an outstanding cadet and was graduated second in a class of forty-six in 1829. Entering the engineer corps, he built and maintained coastal fortifications and river works. In June, 1831, he married his childhood friend Mary Anne Randolph Custis, the great-grandaughter of the wife of George...
(The entire section is 2286 words.)
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Biography (Cyclopedia of World Authors, Fourth Revised Edition)
Robert Edwin Lee began his lifetime of education and writing in his hometown, Elyria, Ohio, and then proceeded to Northwestern (1934) and Ohio Wesleyan (1935-1937) Universities. His father, Claire Melvin Lee, was an engineer, and Lee may have inherited his interest in writing from his mother, Elvira Lee Taft, a teacher. After graduating from college, Lee worked from 1938 to 1942 as an executive at the advertising firm of Young and Rubicam in New York City. He was appointed expert consultant to the secretary of war in 1942, and he also served in the U.S. Air Force from 1943 to 1944, during which time he and his collaborator Jerome Lawrence cofounded Armed Forces Radio, producing the official Army-Navy radio programs for D day, V-E Day, and V-J Day. His position as an important American dramatist is guaranteed by his voluminous output of works, including the controversial classic Inherit the Wind, the well-known The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail, Auntie Mame, and thirty more major theater productions. His and Lawrence’s plays have been adapted as films and have been translated into thirty-two languages.
Lee and Lawrence’s best-known work, Inherit the Wind, represents a response to McCarthyism and the suppression of freedom of thought and expression, important issues for Lee, as a dramatist and writer and a believer in constitutional rights. This play, among others, pinpoints the paradox of individual freedom in...
(The entire section is 685 words.)
Biography (Magill’s Guide to Military History)
Article abstract: Military significance: As commander of the Confederacy’s Army of Northern Virginia from 1862 to 1865, Lee executed the offensive component of the Confederacy’s strategy. His battlefield successes kept the Confederacy militarily viable, preserving its prospects for independence.
The son of Henry Lee, a war hero of the American Revolution, Robert E. Lee graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1829, then served with distinction in the peacetime army and the Mexican-American War (1846-1848) and as superintendent of West Point. The secession of eleven Southern states created a quandary for Lee, a slaveholder and a Virginian but a veteran soldier, whose father helped found the United States. Offered command of the volunteer army raised to quell secession and restore those states—including Virginia—to the Union, Lee sided instead with the Old Dominion.
The first year of the American Civil War (1861-1865) did little to enhance his prewar reputation. First, he was unsuccessful in securing control of western Virginia. He found himself advising Confederate President Jefferson Davis on military matters, not assuming another field assignment until the Union army approached the gates of Richmond, Virginia, in May, 1862, and the Confederate field commander, Joseph...
(The entire section is 714 words.)