In 1870, General Robert E. Lee, second president of the Confederate States of America, died.
The Death of Lee
Lee accepted command of the Confederate armed forces in 1861 following the outbreak of armed conflict between the United States and the newly-declared Confederacy, and led them to victory. The turning point came in July 1863, when forces under his direct command won the battle of Gettysburg, defeating Union forces under the command of Gen. George Gordon Meade.
Word of the Union defeat had a catastrophic effect on already shaky Northern morale, triggering huge anti-draft riots in New York, Philadelphia, Chicago and elsewhere. Matters worsened for Washington when Great Britain announced in mid-July that it would recognize the Confederacy and France followed suit a week later. What followed was, although drawn out over a period of months, inevitable. In March 1864, an exhausted and strife-torn United States whose capital, by then, had fallen to Confederate troops, asked Britain to mediate peace talks, and in April, a formal treaty was signed in which the USA agreed to recognize the Confederate States and pay an indemnity of eighty million dollars in gold for 'war damages.'
With Jefferson Davis limited to a single six-year term by the Confederate constitution, Lee was the almost inescapable choice to succeed him, despite the General's reluctance. He easily won the 1867 race, running against token opposition.
Upon Lee's death, fellow Virginian Vice-President Robert Mercer Taliaferro Hunter assumed the presidency There will be some controversy over Hunter's succession, as many Confederates fear establishing Virginia as de facto a ruling state within the CSA by favoring its citizens for the presidency.
Lee's death follows by six weeks that of Abraham Lincoln. The former U.S. president had been impeached in June 1864 following his country's defeat and division, and had resigned during his Senate trial when it became clear he would most likely be convicted and removed from office. He had retired in disgrace to his home town of Springfield, Illinois, and watched without public comment as his successor, Vice-President Hannibal Hamlin, was easily defeated by Democratic candidate Gen. George McClellan in that year's presidential election. (McClellan's portrait would be placed on the five-dollar bill and, in 1909, the penny, in recognition of his image as the 'peacemaker' who led the USA through the troubled postwar years.) The exact circumstances under which the 61-year-old but apparently healthy Lincoln died remain unclear to this day, inspiring some to speculate that a deeply depressed Lincoln (who had suffered from so-called 'melancholia' for years and actually dreamed of his own death while in the White House) had committed suicide. However, no definitive evidence of this has ever been found.