Lincoln’s Death, New Nation: April 1865 to 1877

Lincoln Compared to Other Great Presidents

What happened to Lee after the war?

From the day that he returned to Richmond—April 15, 1865—Lee made it plain, through actions rather than words, that the Lost Cause was the Lost Cause. He allowed no one to build a movement around him; instead, he acted like a man who had come through four terrible years and wanted to go back to life as normal. Of course, there were ways in which he could not do so.

Lee lived quietly in Richmond, knowing that his former estate, Arlington House, had been taken over by the federal government. He became president of the Washington College and wrote his memoirs. Though he was a good writer who could turn a phrase well, Lee never saw much success from his memoirs; the reason is that there were so many hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of his soldiers who would always claim that the words on paper could never match the executions in the flesh. To them, the Battles of Malvern Hill, of Second Bull Run, and of Chancellorsville could not come alive in the words of any participant: they had to be lived to be believed. Lee died of heart disease in 1870.


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