First in General Lee’s Class

Robert E. Lee graduated second in his class at West Point with zero demerits.  The valedictorian of Lee’s class is not a household name, although he was very successful in his own right.  Charles Mason, first in Lee’s class, was born in New York.  After graduating from West Point in 1829 with an exemplary record, he stayed on as a professor for a couple of years, before resigning his commission.  A few years later, he moved to the territory encompassing Iowa, and was later appointed Chief Justice of the Iowa territorial court, and then the Iowa Supreme Court, writing a notable opinion concerning a fugitive slave.  In 1853, President Franklin Pierce appointed him Commissioner of the U.S. Patent Office.  During the Civil War, Mason was a peace democrat, and came out in support of General McClellan in 1864.  Mason died in 1882.


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