This day in history, Confederate General Robert E. Lee dies peacefully in his home in Lexington, Virginia at the age of 63.
Lee attended West Point and graduated second in his class in 1829. He did not earn a single demerit during his four years at the academy.
When the Civil War broke out and Virginia seceded from the Union, Lee sided with the Confederacy and spent the first year of the war as an adviser to Confederate President Jefferson Davis. He did this despite his personal desire for the country to remain intact and an offer for a senior Union command.
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 as one of the greatest military leaders in history for his use of brilliant tactics and battlefield leadership. He won most of his battles, all against superior Union armies.
His invasions of the north, at Antietam and Gettysburg, however, ended in defeat. After Lee surrendered his army at Appomattox in 1865 he returned to Richmond.
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. On September 28, 1870, he suffered a stroke and he lingered for two weeks before passing. The school changed its name to Washington and Lee College soon after he died.