In 1865, Washington College, like the rest of the South, was a once-proud institution -- George Washington himself had supported it financially -- that had fallen on hard times. It had suffered extensive damage during the Civil War, including frequent pillaging by Union troops. When Lee accepted the job only four teachers and about 40 students remained at the school.
So Lee once again faced formidable odds. When he accepted the Washington College job, Lee turned down several other job offers that were more lucrative than the $1,500 annual salary the financially strapped college was paying. But, as he said, "I have led the young men of the South in battle. I must now teach their sons to discharge their duty in life."
Lee immediately went to work. He revised the curriculum, adding to the traditional (classical) studies several more practical scientific and engineering courses. During the war Lee had seen firsthand what an advantage the Union North had enjoyed in terms of industrial production, technological development and advanced equipment, and he wanted the South to follow suit. [...]