Robert E. Lee was born to an illustrious military family. Roberts father was Henry “Light Horse Harry” Lee, who was George Washington’s favorite cavalry commander. One of Lee’s ancestors fought beside William the Conqueror and another took part in the 3rd crusade through the holy land. One ancestor was knighted.
Robert graduated 2nd in his class at West Point in 1829. Lee’s first combat was in the Mexican war when he received 3 field promotions. General Winfield Scott described him as “The very best soldier that I ever saw in the field”
Lee was assigned to be the superintendent of West Point in 1852 where he would educate many of the officers that would later be at his side, or oppose him in the field.
Lee was offered a field command of the union army early in 1861 and he refused it. His reason was a-political, it was that he could not take part in an invasion of his home state of Virginia. He was “A loyal Virginian”, no more, no less.
Shelby Footes’ research revealed that this was the most common motive by far; confederates fought for their home states and they felt invaded by northern states.
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