Confederate General Robert E. Lee, at age 56, was experiencing pain in his chest, back and arms in late March and early April of 1863. Several doctors diagnosed pericarditis. Pericarditis by definition, according to the Mayo Clinic, is “a swelling and irritation of the pericardium, the thin sac membrane that surrounds your heart.”
For General Lee, his doctors, Lafayette Guild and S. M. Bemiss, prescribed rest, gave him quinine and sent him into a private home near Fredericksburg, Virginia and away from the rebel camp. He was confined in bed for several weeks and was feverish. By April 16, he was back in camp, but still not feeling 100%.
Modern doctors hold the opinion that Lee suffered a heart attack. They say that doctors of the day were not familiar with angina.
How much General Lee’s illness or condition affected his performance at the upcoming battle at Gettysburg on July 1-3, 1863 is anyone’s guess. He did, however, offer his resignation within a few weeks following that battle, citing his inability to lead caused by extreme physical fatigue. That resignation obviously was not accepted.
General Lee lived until his death in October 12, 1870 following a stroke that had occurred on September 28.
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