Robert E. Lee was born in Stratford Hall, near Montross,

Virginia, on January 19, 1807. He grew up with a great love of all
country life and his state. This stayed with him for the rest of his
life. He was a very serious boy and spent many hours in his father's
library. He loved to play with some his friends, swim, and he loved
to hunt. Lee looked up to his father and always wanted to know what
he was doing. George Washington and his father, "Light-Horse Harry

Lee," were his heroes. He wanted to be just like his father when he
grew up.

In the 1820's, the entrance requirements for West Point were
not close to as strict as they are now. It still was not that easy to
become a cadet. Robert Lee entered the United States Military Academy
at West Point where his classmates admired him for his brilliance,
leadership, and his love for his work. He graduated from the academy
with high honors in 1829, and he was ranked as a second lieutenant in
the Corps of Engineers at the age of 21.

Lee served for seventeen months at Fort Pulaski on Cockspur

Island, Georgia. In 1831, the army transferred him to Fort Monroe,

Virginia, as assistant engineer. While he was stationed there, he
married Mary Anna Randolph Custis who was Martha Washington's
great-granddaughter. They lived in her family home in Arlington on a
hill overlooking Washington D.C. They had seven children which were
three sons and four daughters. Lee served as an assistant in the
chief engineer's office in Washington from 1834 to 1837, but then he
spent the summer of 1835 helping to lay out the boundary line between

Ohio and Michigan. In 1837, he got his first independent important
job. As a first lieutenant of engineers, he supervised the
engineering work for St. Louis harbor and for the upper Mississippi
and Missouri rivers. His work there earned him a promotion to
captain. In 1841, he was transferred to Fort Hamilton in New York
harbor, where he took charge of building fortifications.

When war broke out between the United States and Mexico in

1846, the army sent Lee to Texas to serve as assistant engineer under

General John E. Wool. All his superior officers, especially General

Winfield Scott, were impressed with Lee. Early in the war, Lee
supervised the construction of bridges for Wool's march toward the

Mexican border. He then did excellent work on scouting trips. Lee
later was helping General Winfield Scott plan a great battle. The

Army was about to attack Vera Cruz, a large Mexican town on the sea.

The attack began. Soldiers fired huge guns at the walls of Vera Cruz.

One of the men at the guns happened to be Robert's brother, Smith

Lee. When he could, Lee went to stand by his brother's gun. "I could
see his white teeth through all the smoke of the fire"1 Lee said, in
a letter to Mary. The Mexicans soon gave up Vera Cruz. General Scott
thanked Lee for his work. Now the Army could move on to the Mexican
capital. The march to Mexico City would be hard. General Scott asked

Lee to find the best way to go. And he asked him to see what Santa

Anna, the Mexican general, was doing. To get news for Scott, Lee went
behind the lines of enemy soldiers. This was dangerous work. Once
when Lee was behind enemy lines he heard voices. Mexican soldiers
were coming to drink at a spring. Lee jumped under a log. More

Mexicans came. They sat on the log and talked. Lee had to hide there
until dark. Lee found out many things for Scott. Once he even found
a secret road for the army. He was extremely brave. At Cerro Gordo
he led the first line of men into battle. The Americans won. Lee
then wrote to his son, Custis, "You have no idea what a horrible sight
a field of battle is."2 Then came the biggest battle of the war. The

Americans attacked a fort outside Mexico City. Lee planned the
attack. For days he worked without sleep. He found out where the

Mexican soldiers were. He knew where to put the big guns. It was
easy for the Army to take the fort. The American Army marched right
into Mexico City. The war was now officially over. Lee's engineering
skill made it possible for American troops to cross the difficult
mountain passes on the way to the capital. During the march to Mexico

City, Lee was promoted to brevet lieutenant colonel. He was promoted
to brevet colonel before the war