This study of General Robert E. Lee focuses on his first year with the Confederacy. It asserts that his experiences during this period prepared him extremely well for his command of the Army of Northern Virginia, which he assumed on 1 June 1862. Although history draws attention to this period of Lee's career, it fails to highlight its significance in providing Lee an opportunity to develop. History seems more prone to sweep past Lee's first year in an effort to view him in the context of later battles fought and fame acquired. However, this earlier period allowed Lee to gain a mature, operational perspective of Virginia. It provided him experience in conceptualizing and directing large troop movements, encountering the administrative and logistical burdens of raising armies, working with civilian masters, and gaining an understanding of key subordinate leaders. Drawing largely from the Official Records, the study reveals that Lee emerged in 1862 as a general most qualified at and comfortable working in the operational arena. The study also suggests that history re-examine Lee's first year to gain the full value his experiences provides for the instruction of current and future military leaders.