WHERE: Monument and Allen avenues in the center of a grass island in the roundabout.
ARTIST: Jean Antoine Mercie.
DEDICATION: May 29, 1890.
DESCRIPTION: A grand and imposing equestrian bronze figure 21 foot high, mounted on an oval-shaped granite pedestal 40 foot high, which is flanked on both sides by two gray marble columns. The statue is oriented to the south and was the first constructed on Monument Avenue. The traffic flows around this monument in a roundabout, starting in 2004.
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This monument is the one that draws the most “Wows” of all the Monument Avenue statues from first-time visitors. It is the biggest, tallest and most imposing statue of all in Richmond — even bigger than the George Washington equestrian statue at Capitol Square.
The traffic circle is wide and the inside has grass, so it is also the most approachable monument on the avenue. People can sit in the circle and watch traffic, catch sun rays and just hang out with General Lee. There rarely is a bad time of day to photograph the statue as well, as he is facing south and even in the winter, if the sun is shining, it will be on his face instead of his horse Traveller’s backside.
HISTORY: Lee graduated from West Point Military Academy. He became a Captain in the Mexican American War. He had also served as a superintendent at West Point. There he was responsible for training future soldiers.
Based on his military accomplishments, he was asked by President Abraham Lincoln to lead the Union army. Lee turned down the position due to his loyalty to Virginia. Lee traveled to Richmond in 1861 to accept charge of the Army of Northern Virginia. He later served as a military advisor to Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States of America.
Confederate General Robert E. Lee showed his skill of organization as he prepared 40,000 troops for battle. His men held him in high respect and obediently carried through his orders. Lee’s greatest battles included the battles of Antietam, Chancellorsville, Fredericksburg, and Gettysburg.
On the afternoon of April 9, 1865, Lee surrendered to General Grant of the Union army at Appomattox Court House, marking the end of the Civil War.
After the war Lee became the president of Washington College, which is now called Washington and Lee University. On October 12, 1870 at age 63, Lee passed away at Washington and Lee. He is buried under Lee Chapel there.
Lee’s horse, Traveller, became well-known as he carried Lee throughout the Civil War. The horse died in June 1871 from stepping on a rusty nail.