“First Gentleman of Virginia” Robert E. Lee graduated from West Point. Though he freed his slaves before the Civil War began and was opposed to secession, Lee’s devotion and loyalty to Virginia led him to join the Confederacy. He commanded the army of the Confederacy until the war’s end in 1865. When others wanted to continue the fight, Lee gracefully protested, “Abandon your animosities and make your sons Americans.”
Well-beloved by his troops, this hero of the South won the respect of both Northerners and Southerners for his outstanding military achievements and unquestionable personal character. After the war, Lee served as president of Washington College (now Washington and Lee University); the man who had led men in war now educated them in the responsibilities of peace.