Robert Edward Lee, Antebellum Military Career (National Cyclopedia)

Reference
"Lee, Rober Edward," National Cyclopaedia of American Biography (New York: James T. White & Company, 1897), 4: 96.
When the war with Mexico began Capt. Lee was made chief engineer of the U.S. army, and was placed on the personal staff of Gen. Scott, who sought his advice constantly, and ascribed the fall of Vera Cruz to his strategic ability. Lee was thrice brevetted, the last time as colonel, for gallantry at Chapultepec, where he was wounded. Peace declared, he had charge of the construction of works for the defense of the harbor of Baltimore, and then, 1852-55, was superintendent of the academy, West Point, broadening its curriculum and giving it rank with the best military schools of Europe. In 1855 he was appointed lieutenant-colonel of the 2d regiment of cavalry, and until February, 1861, was stationed at Fort Cooper, Texas. While at Arlington, on a furlough, in 1859, John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry occurred, and Lee, at the head of a company of U.S. marines, captured Brown and his few remaining followers. In January, 1861, he learned that civil war was impending, and in a letter to his wife said: “I can do nothing to hasten or retard it.” In February he was called to Washington and soon after was offered command of the active army of the United States; but, though deprecating secession and war, he refused to have any part in an invasion of the South.
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