George Custis Lee was born in 1832 at Arlington Plantation in Alexandria, Virginia. His parents were Robert Edward Lee and Mary Ann Randolph Custis. Custis was the eldest of seven children. His father was an officer in the Corps of Engineers and a graduate of West Point. His father was away much of the time in the course of his military duties. His father was away for over two years during the Mexican War. George Custis grew up with his mother and other siblings at Arlington. From biography posted on Findagrave Custfis was educated in a series of private boarding schools, lastly at the mathematics academy of Benjamin Hallowell.
From biography posted on Findagrave
At age 17 he received an appointment to West Point from President Zachary Taylor and at the Academy had, as did his father before him, an outstanding academic record. Custis barely missed expulsion at the start of his second year due to an alcohol related incident, but continued his good class work. His father became the Superintendent at West Point in 1852. Under the command of father during his final two years at school, he graduated first in the Class of 1854 and was assigned to the Corps of Engineers. During his time in the Army he had duty in California, Georgia, and Florida. Stationed in Washington, D.C. at the outbreak of war, Custis resigned his commission and tendered his services to Virginia as did his father.
War came to the south and to Virginia in April of 1861. After Virginia seceded from the Union Custis resigned his commission on 27 Apr 1861. He was a 1st Lt. in the Corps of Engineers.
From biography by Bob Hufford
Custis was commissioned in the Confederate Army in July of 1861. He was named aide-de-camp to President Davis the next month and promoted to Colonel. Thru most of the conflict he was to serve as Davis' assistant and earned respect, though questions persist; by some accounts, Custis wanted field duty and was prevented from accepting it either by Davis' superior rank or by his father's, while according to other versions of the tale he lacked confidence in his own abilities and was happy behind a desk. Whatever the truth, he did maintain a home on East Franklin Street in Richmond where he cared for his invalid mother. He was sent on frequent fact-finding missions for the President and his engineering skills were put to occasional use as when he supervised the fortification of Drewery's Bluff on the James River in the spring of 1862. Named Brigadier General on June 25, 1863, he commanded Richmond troops during the period covering the Battle of Gettysburg. In 1864 he was placed in charge of the defense of Richmond and commanded at Chaffin's Bluff where he did a good enough job that the Union did not take Richmond until after the surrender at Appomattox. Promoted to Major General on October 20, 1864, he participated in the final retreat from Petersburg and was captured at Sayler's Creek on April 6, 1865, though he was released when the war ended three days later.
Custis had inherited Arlington House where he spent much of his childhood. upon the October 10, 1857, death of his grandfather George Washington Parke Custis, During the war his mother and family were forced to leave. The property was taken via a spurious claim of non-payment of taxes during the Civil War, eventually to become Arlington National Cemetery. After the war Custis sued for recovery of his house and land and in an 1882 Supreme Court decision won his case; having never harbored a desire to see the dead dug up, he sold his title to the federal government for $150,000 in 1883.
When his father accepted the presidency of Washington College, Custis followed his parents to Lexington where he held a professorship of civil engineering at VMI while helping to design the Lee Chapel at Washington and Lee; named President of the University of Maryland in 1867, he declined the post after public protest of a Confederate getting the job and returned to Lexington. Upon his father's death Custis became President of what would one day be Washington and Lee University, remaining in office until 1897 and during his tenure donating Charles Willson Peale's 1772 portrait of George Washington to the Lee Chapel. After retirement he moved into Ravensworth Mansion, the Fairfax County estate of his by-then deceased younger brother Rooney, where he lived out his days. Custis never married.
From Find A Grave:
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