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Robert E Lee was born on January 19 1807 at Stratford in Westnoreland County Virginia to Ann Carter and Light Horse Harry Lee He attended the US Military Academy at West Point where he met Jefferson Davis the future confederate president and graduated second in the class of 1829 While attending West Point he did not receive any demerits and was the cadet corps adjutant which is a staff officer who helps a commanding officer with administrative affairs Before the Mexican War Lee served as an engineer on projects in Georgia Virginia and New York During the war he distinguished himself as a scout and troop guide he also won three brevets which are commissions promoting an officer in rank without an increase in pay He became the superintendent of the military academy in Baltimore in 1852 In 1855 the mounted arm was expanded and Lee accepted the lieutenant colonelcy of the 2nd Cavalry so that he could escape the extremely slow promotion process of the engineers He was stationed in western Texas until his father-in-law died in 1857 which forced him to take a series of leaves to settle the estate In 1859 he was called to lead a force of marines join with the militia on the scene and to put an end to John Browns Harpers Ferry Raid He again served in Texas until 1861 when he was called to Washington by Winfield Scott who tried in vain to retain Lee in the US service He rejected command of Unions field forces the day after Virginia seceded He said on April 20 1861 in a letter to his sister With all my devotion to the Union and the feeling of loyalty and duty of an American citizen I have not been able to make up my mind to raise my hand against my relatives my children my home I have therefore resigned my commission in the Army and save in defense of
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