Leuitenant General Stephen D. Lee
Lee was born in 1833 in Charleston, South Carolina, to Thomas Lee and his wife Caroline Allison.He was raised in Abbeville, South Carolina. He possibly volunteered for service with the United States Army during the Mexican–American War.Lee entered the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1850, graduating four years later and standing 17th out of 46 cadets. On July 1, 1854, he was commissioned a second lieutenant in the 4th Infantry Regiment. Lee was promoted to the rank of first lieutenant on October 31, 1856. He served as the 4th Regiment’s Quartermaster from Sept. 18, 1857, to February 8, 1861.
Lee was serving as adjutant of Florida as well as his regiment’s quartermaster in 1857 during the Seminole Wars. From 1858 to 1861 he was assigned to the western frontier, posted in Kansas and then in the newly created Dakota Territory. Lee then resigned his U.S. Army commission twelve days later to enter the Confederate service.
After resigning from the U.S. Army in 1861, Lee entered the Confederate forces as a captain in the South Carolina Militia. (Unlike many Confederate officers called Lee, he was no relation to Robert E. Lee.)
On March 6 he was assigned as the Assistant Adjutant General and Assistant Inspector General of the Forces at Charleston, and on March 16 he was appointed a captain in the Regular Confederate States Artillery.
Beginning on April 11 Lee was aide-de-camp to Brig. Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard. That same day he delivered an ultimatum from Beauregard to Union Maj. Robert Anderson, demanding the evacuation of Fort Sumter, which was refused and after bombardment the fort fell on April 14, precipitating the start of the Civil War.
In June 1861 Lee resumed his position in the South Carolina Militia, and then in November he was promoted to the rank of major in the Confederate Army.
Lee commanded a light battery in Hampton’s Legion in Gen. Joseph E. Johnston’s army later in 1861.
He was promoted to lieutenant colonel in March 1862, and was the artillery chief for Maj. Gen. Lafayette McLaws’s division of the Army of Northern Virginia from April to June 17, and then in the same role under Brig. Gen. John B. Magruder until July.
Lee participated in the 1862 Peninsula Campaign, notably during the Battle of Seven Pines on May 31 and June 1, the Battle of Savage’s Station on June 29, during the Seven Days Battles from June 25 to July 1, and the Battle of Malvern Hill also on July 1.
He briefly served in the 4th Virginia Cavalry in July, was promoted to colonel on July 9, and assumed command of an artillery battalion of Maj. Gen. James Longstreet’s Corps that same month.
Under Longstreet, Lee fought in the Second Battle of Manassas that August and then Battle of Sharpsburg on September 17, where his guns played a prominent role in defending the ground near the famed Dunker Church.
On November 6, 1862, Lee was promoted to the rank of brigadier general.
Leaving the artillery branch, Lee briefly led an infantry division during the Battle of Chickasaw Bayou from December 26–29, where he repulsed the attacks of Union Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman.
Beginning in January 1863 he led a brigade in the Department of Mississippi & Eastern Louisiana until that May, when he was ordered to take command of Lt. Gen. John C. Pemberton’s artillery defending access to the Mississippi River at Vicksburg.
Lee fought notably during the Battle of Champion Hill on May 16, where he was wounded when he was hit in a shoulder.
Military historian Jon L. Wakelyn praises Lee’s performance in this action, saying “he was the hero of the battle of Champion Hills.”
Lee served throughout the 1863 Siege of Vicksburg until Pemberton’s surrender to Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant on July 4, becoming a prisoner of war.
While on parole, he was promoted to the rank of major general on August 3, 1863.
Beginning on August 16 Lee was assigned to command the cavalry of Department of Mississippi & Eastern Louisiana, and he was officially exchanged on October 13.
He was then given command of the Department of Alabama & East Louisiana on May 9, 1864. Troops in Lee’s department under Maj. Gen. Nathan B. Forrest scored a victory at the Battle of Brice’s Crossroads on June 10, and seriously threatened Union supply lines supporting Sherman in Georgia.
Lee personally reinforced Forrest but the combined Confederate force was defeated at the Battle of Tupelo, ensuring the safety of Sherman’s supply lines.
Lee was promoted to lieutenant general on June 23, 1864, making Lee the youngest at this grade in the Confederate Army.
On July 26 he was assigned to lead the Second Corps, Army of Tennessee, commanded by John B. Hood.
During the Atlanta Campaign, Lee fought at the Battle of Ezra Church on July 28 and was in command of the extended line in south west Atlanta in August 1864. His troops with the attachment of William B. Bate’s Division and a Brigade of Georgia Militia defeated Schofield’s movement to break the railroad lines at East Point at Utoy Creek.
For this action he published a general order recognizing Bate’s Division for defeating the attack of the combined US XXIII and XIV Corps. He was also in command of his corps at the Battle of Jonesborough on August 31 and September 1.
Lee fought in the Franklin-Nashville Campaign and was severely wounded in the foot at the Battle of Spring Hill on November 29, but did not give up the command until an organized rearguard took over the post of danger.
In regard to the confused and disappointing fight at Spring Hill, Lee considered it “one of the most disgraceful and lamentable occurrences of the war, one that is in my opinion unpardonable.”
He then participated in the Battle of Franklin on November 30. Lee’s men arrived at Franklin at 4 p.m. with orders from Hood to support Benjamin F. Cheatham’s force if necessary. Meeting with Cheatham, Lee decided the situation was dire and attacked at 9 p.m., taking serious losses from the Union position and from Confederate artillery as well.
Following the campaign’s Battle of Nashville on December 15–16, Lee kept his troops closed up and well in hand despite the general rout of the rest of the Confederate forces. For three consecutive days, they would form the fighting rearguard of the otherwise disintegrated Army of Tennessee. Lee was wounded in the foot by shell fragments on December 17.
Upon recovery, Lee joined Gen. Joseph E. Johnston during the 1865 Carolinas Campaign. On February 9 he married Regina Harrison, with whom Lee would have one child, a son named Blewett Harrison Lee.
When the remnants of the Johnston’s Army of Tennessee was re-organized in early 1865, Lee was left without a command matching his rank, and his commission as a lieutenant general was canceled on February 23; however, on March 23 he was appointed a “temporary” lieutenant general.
Lee surrendered at that rank with Johnston’s forces in April and was paroled on May 1.
After the war Lee settled in Columbus, Mississippi, which was his wife’s home state and during the greater part of the war his own territorial command, and devoted himself to planting.
He served as a state senator in 1878, and was the first president of the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Mississippi (modern-day Mississippi State University) from 1880 to 1899.
Lee served as a delegate to the state’s constitutional convention in 1890, was the head of the Vicksburg National Park Association in 1899.
He also was an active member (and from 1904 commander-in-chief) of the United Confederate Veterans society.
In 1887 Lee wrote an article for the first volume of Battles and Leaders of the Civil War, and he published Sherman’s Meridian Expedition and Sooy Smith’s Raid to West Point in 1880. Lee died in 1908 in Vicksburg, Mississippi, and was buried in Friendship Cemetery located in Columbus.
He fell sick after giving a speech to former Union soldiers from Wisconsin and Iowa, four of the regiments whom he had faced in battle 45 years earlier at Vicksburg.
The cause of his death was attributed to a cerebral hemorrhage.
At the time Lee was also planning the next reunion of the United Confederate Veterans, held on June 9, 1908.
On April 25, 1906, in a speech given at New Orleans, Louisiana, Lee gave the following charge to the Sons of Confederate Veterans
“To you, Sons of Confederate Veterans, we will commit the vindication of the cause for which we fought.
To your strength will be given the defense of the Confederate soldier’s good name, the guardianship of his history, the emulation of his virtues, the perpetuation of those principles which he loved and which you love also, and those ideals which made him glorious and which you also cherish.”