Robert E. Lee’s Day is a state holiday in many parts of the U.S that commemorates the birthday of Robert E. Lee. It is a legal state holiday in Alabama, and Mississippi and in those states, it is observed on the third Monday of January – the same day as Martin Luther King Jr. Day. It is also a legal holiday in the state of Florida and is celebrated on January 19th. Because it commemorates the birthday of a Confederate General, this holiday is mainly celebrated in southern states in the United States. In Virginia, Robert E. Lee’s Birthday is celebrated as part of Lee-Jackson Day on the Friday before Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
Robert E. Lee’s Biography
Robert E. Lee was born on January 19, 1807, in Stratford, Virginia. He came from a prominent family which includes members such as Chief Justice Edward Douglass White; Thomas Lee – a member of the Virginia House of Burgess; signers of the U.S Declaration – Francis Lightfoot Lee & Richard Lee; and U.S President Zachary Taylor. Lee saw his family as a great one and he saw himself as an extension of that great family so he joined West Point at the age of 18 in 1825. He worked diligently at West Point and studied hard. In fact, he was one of the few graduating students of West Point to graduate without a single demerit and finished his studies with perfect scores in cavalry, infantry, and artillery units.
After his graduation from West Point, Robert E. Lee met Mary Custis and married her. Robert and Mary had seven children together and Mary stayed with the children on Mary’s father plantation while Robert served at various military posts all over the United States. Eventually, in 1846, he was able to distinguish himself under General Winfield Scott during the Mexican War. Robert E. Lee was noted as being a brave battle commander during this war. After the war, Robert was praised as a hero and he returned back to the plantation. However, he didn’t feel suited for plantation life and had a hard time with it.
In 1859, Robert Lee would eventually return back to the Army and accepted a position at a Texas cavalry outpost. Later on that year, he was called upon to put an end to the slave insurrection led by John Brown at Harper’s Ferry. He managed to put down the insurrection in an hour. This victory was so impressive that Robert Lee caught the attention of President Abraham Lincoln, who offered him a position to command the Union Forces. But he turned down the offer, resigned from the Army and returned home instead.
Robert E. Lee didn’t like the idea of a Civil War beginning over the issue of slavery, but he nonetheless agreed to lead the Confederate forces when Virginia seceded from the nation on April 18th, 1861. He would then proceed to give the Confederate Army a number of victories over the next year. He drove the Union Army back from Richmond and he was victorious at the Second Manassas. However, not all of his military campaigns were successful.
When he tried to cross the Potomac, nearly 14,000 of his men were killed, wounded or captured and he narrowly escaped the Battle of Antietam. He would then go on to suffer another loss in July of 1863 at the Battle of Gettysburg. This battle ended his invasion of the North and helped to turn the tide for Union forces. By 1865, it was clear that the war was coming to an end and in April of that year, Robert E. Lee was forced to give up Richmond, Virginia. The next week, he surrendered to General Grant at Appomattox, Virginia.
President Lincoln and General Grant saved him from being hanged as a traitor and he returned to his family. He would then go on to become president of a college in western Virginia. In October of 1870, he suffered a stroke at his home and died at the age of 63 years old.
History of Robert E. Lee’s Day
Since almost the end of the Civil War, four states celebrated Robert E. Lee’s Birthday in January. These four states were Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia and Mississippi. Later on, Florida began to commemorate the holiday as well. Recently, however, some states have changed the day they celebrate Robert E. Lee’s Day.
In 2015, Georgia decided to change its observance of this day from the third Monday in January to November 27th. Up until March of 2017, Robert E. Lee’s Day was celebrated on Martin Luther King’s Day in Arkansas. It has since been split from that holiday and is now celebrated on the second Saturday in October as a memorial day and not a state holiday.
Robert E. Lee’s Day Customs & Traditions
On Robert E. Lee’s Day, many people celebrate the General and events are held in many southern states. These events can include BBQs, parades, fireworks displays, marches, Civil War re-enactments, wreath laying ceremonies and people dressing up in historical Civil War Confederate uniforms. There may even be musket salutes at Confederate graves. Some people use the day to visit historic Civil War memorials or simply to spend some time with their friends and families.
When is Robert E Lee’s Birthday?
|This year (2022)||
January 17 (Monday)
January 19 (Wednesday)
|Multiple dates - more|
|Next year (2023)||
January 16 (Monday)
January 19 (Thursday)
|Multiple dates - more|
|Last year (2021)||
January 18 (Monday)
January 19 (Tuesday)
|Multiple dates - more|