By: James I. Robertson Jr. In 1861, Lee was Lincoln’s first choice to lead the Union troops in the Civil War. But a strong loyalty to Virginia held Lee back. Instead he chose to become the commanding officer of the Confederacy. However, only when he surrendered in 1865 did the nation understand the kind of man Robert E. Lee truly was. He was kind and loving, giving all of himself to a reconciliation between the North and the South.