Robert E. Lee

Robert E. Lee sitting with his hands in his lap

Courtesy Library of Congress, LC-DIG-cwpb-04402.

This portrait of General Robert E. Lee (1807–1870), the commander of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia, was taken by Julian Vannerson in March 1864. Prior to the Civil War, Lee, who hailed from a prominent Virginia slaveholding family, served for thirty-two years as a U.S. Army officer and combat engineer, was decorated for service in the Mexican War, and directed the U.S. Military Academy. Offered the command of the Union army by President Abraham Lincoln the day after Virginia seceded, Lee remained loyal to his home state and began Confederate service as a major general. An early failed campaign in western Virginia earned Lee the nickname “Granny Lee,” but the next year, once he was assigned to lead the Army of Northern Virginia by Confederate President Jefferson Davis, he started to gain recognition as an effective and daring tactician. By the war’s end, Lee had been appointed as general in chief of the Confederate armies.