The Civil War, Day by Day

Robert E. Lee

Lee Appointed Commander of Army in Virginia

Lee replaced the mercurial Joseph Johnston, who had been seriously wounded in the Battle of Fair Oaks. Although Lee had not been near a battlefield in almost fifteen years, Davis could not think of a more competent general to defend this critical Virginia region.

Born in 1807 in Westmoreland County, Virginia, Lee was educated at West Point and distinguished himself in the Mexican War. When the Civil War began, Lee was offered the command of the entire Union army. Despite his opposition to slavery - the cause célébre of the war - Lee declined the post out of loyalty to his home state. Instead he served as an advisor to Davis in Richmond, guiding the Confederate Army with a superb command of military strategy.

With this new appointment, Lee was suddenly thrust into the front lines with a monumental task ahead of him. His soldiers were as headstrong and disorganized as their former commander, Johnston. With swift precision, Lee instilled a new semblance of order and discipline among his forces - which became known as the Army of Northern Virginia - and made his first priority the defense of Richmond.

Despite his brilliance on the battlefield, the gentlemanly Lee was a reluctant warrior. He fervently believed that “it is well that war is so terrible, or we should grow too fond of it.”

July's Archived Features:

Friday July 1, 2022



All illustrations by Mort Künstler. Text by Michael Aubrecht, Dee Brown, Henry Steele Commager, Rod Gragg, Mort Künstler, Edward Lengel, James McPherson, and James I. Robertson, Jr. - Copyright © 2001-2019. All Rights Reserved. No part of the contents of this web site may be reproduced or utilized in any form by any means without written consent of the artist.