Robert E. Lee Lesson for Kids: Biography & Facts

Instructor: Jenny Homer

Jenny has masters' degrees in public health and public administration.

This lesson will talk about General Robert E. Lee, leader of the Confederate Army during the United States Civil War. Learn about his life, his time in the army, and the big role he played in American history.

Who is Robert E. Lee?

Have you ever had two friends get into a big argument and ask you to pick a side? What would you do? This was the problem facing Robert E. Lee when the United States Civil War began in 1861. The Northern states did not want slavery, but the Southern states did. The war was also about what powers states should have when making laws. As you'll see in this lesson, Robert E. Lee decided to fight for the South (called the Confederacy) and became a general in its army.

Robert E. Lee on a United States Stamp
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Early Life

Robert Edward Lee was born on January 19, 1807, in Virginia. His family believed in the United States. His father fought in the American Revolution. His father died when Robert E. Lee was little, so he helped take care of his mother and sisters. He went to the West Point Military Academy and did very well in school.

Military Leader

Lee married in 1831, and they had seven children. From 1846-48, he fought in the Mexican War, and people began to see that he was a really good soldier. Lee was in the United States Army in 1861 when the Southern states began to secede, or say that they no longer wanted to be part of the country. President Abraham Lincoln asked Lee to be in charge of an army to make the South rejoin the country.

This is where Lee had to choose a side. Lee did not believe the states should secede. He felt sad about what was happening, but he owned slaves. After Virginia seceded, Lee left his job in the United States Army and went to protect his home state. The Southern states became the Confederacy, and the northern states formed the Union.

The Civil War

At first, Lee's job was to lead the Army of Northern Virginia. Lee won some battles such as the Battle of Fredericksburg and became a hero to his troops. He was able to keep the Union army out of Virginia for a few years. In one famous battle called Chancellorsville, there were many more Union soldiers. Lee divided up his army, attacked the Union soldiers from both sides, and won! Lee spent the war with his favorite horse named Traveller.

General Robert E. Lee and Traveller
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