Feature Lee After The War

Learn more about General Robert E. Lee

Lee After The War

After Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox courthouse on April 9, 1865, the general was pardoned by President Lincoln. He was unable to return to his estate in Arlington, Virginia, however, because it now sat in the middle of a national cemetery, overlooking the graves of thousands of union soldiers.

Lee and his family instead moved to Lexington, Virginia, where he became the president of Washington College. It is believed that he accepted this low-profile post, which paid only $1,500 a year, because he felt it unseemly to profit after such a bloody and divisive conflict. In 1865, Lee signed an amnesty oath, asking once again to become a citizen of the United States. He did so as an active encouragement for confederate soldiers to rejoin the United States.

Lee's own desire to become an American citizen fell victim to fate. His oath of allegiance was misplaced, and he was still considered a guest in his own country when he died of heart failure on October 12, 1870. Lee's oath was only discovered 100 years later in the National Archives.

On August 5, 1975, at a ceremony at Arlington House, President Gerald Ford called Lee an example to succeeding generations and had his citizenship restored. He is buried on the grounds of the former Washington College, now known as Washington and Lee University.

Image: General Robert E. Lee, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division