portrait of Robert E. Lee
Photo by Julian Vannerson (1863)

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Quotes of the Day for 19 January 2004 – Robert E. Lee

Robert Edward Lee was born at Stratford, Westmoreland County, Virginia on this day in 1807, the son of Revolutionary War hero Henry "Lighthorse Harry" Lee. He graduated second in his class from West Point in 1829, the only cadet ever to graduate without a single demerit, and was commissioned a second lieutenant in the engineers. He supervised harbor construction, surveyed boundaries, built fortifications, and in the Mexican War found ways to move troops over "impassible" terrain that allowed American victories. He was superintendent of West Point for three years, protected settlers on the Texas frontier from Indian raids, and when he was, by chance, in Washington City he was sent to arrest John Brown at Harper's Ferry. When Lincoln offered him command of the Union Army, Lee resigned rather than lead troops against his home state of Virginia. As a general in the Confederate Army, it was his leadership that allowed the outgunned and outmanned southrons to fare as well as they did. His courage, honor, and character made him respected even in the north, although his citizenship was not restored until 1975, over a century after his death.

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You will find an expanded profile, photo, additional biographical links, and all quotes from this author on the author's Notable Quotable page.

The quotes:

Duty then is the sublimest word in the English language. You should do your duty in all things. You can never do more, you should never wish to do less.
This letter to his son now believed to be a forgery.

There is a terrible war coming, and these young men who have never seen war cannot wait for it to happen, but I tell you, I wish that I owned every slave in the South, for I would free them all to avoid this war.

You must be careful how you walk, and where you go, for there are those following you who will set their feet where yours are set.

True patriotism sometimes requires of men to act exactly contrary, at one period, to that which it does at another, and the motive which impels them - the desire to do right - is precisely the same.

There are few, I believe, in this enlightened age, who will not acknowledge that slavery as an institution is a moral and political evil.

I did only what my duty demanded. I could have taken no other course without dishonor. And if all were to be done over again, I should act in precisely the same manner.
     - All from Robert Edward Lee, 1807 - 1870

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