General Robert E. Lee, commander of the Confederate "Army of Northern Virginia".
Born on January 19, 1807 at "Stratford" in Westmoreland County Virginia, Lee was the son of Anne Hill and Henry Lee, a distinguished cavalry officer during the American Revolution where he gained the nick-name "Light Horse Harry". Financial problems forced the elder Lee to move his family to a home in Alexandria where Robert attended school and enjoyed outdoor activities along the river. In 1825, the young Lee entered the US Military Academy at West Point. He excelled in his studies and military exercises, graduating second in the class of 1829. Two years later he married Mary Ann Randolph Custis, a direct descendent of Mary Washington and the family moved with Lee's assignments to the midwest and then Washington. At the outbreak of the War with Mexico, Lee was assigned to the army under General John E. Wool and General Winfield Scott and was wounded at the Battle of Chapultepec. Lee distinguished himself during the war and received several promotions in rank after the war ended. In the decade that followed, he briefly served as superintendent of West Point and accepted a command in the 2nd US Cavalry. It was by chance that Lee was in Washington in 1859 when the violent abolitionist John Brown raided the United States Arsenal at Harpers Ferry. Placed in command of Federal troops sent to recapture the arsenal, Lee directed the soldiers who stormed Brown's last holdout and captured Brown and his fellow conspirators.
Lee declined an offer to command the Union Army at the outbreak of the Civil War and offered his services to his native state. After serving in several administraive and field postions, he was assigned to command the Confederate Army at Richmond, which he named the "Army of Northern Virginia". Under his command, this army exploited Union mismanagement on numerous battlefields, making Lee one of the most victorious commanders in the Confederacy.
Lee's army was noted for its cadre of southern commanders who were veterans of numerous, hard-fought battles. Some performed better than in the summer of 1863.