Recollections and Letters of General Robert E. Lee

Chapter II: The Confederate General: Resigns from Colonelcy of First United States Cavalry

The Document

In February, 1861, after the secession of Texas, my father was ordered to report to General Scott, the Commander-in-Chief of the United States Army. He immediately relinquished the command of his regiment, and departed from Fort Mason, Texas, for Washington. He reached Arlington March 1st. April 17th, Virginia seceded. On the 18th Colonel Lee had a long interview with General Scott. On April 20th he tendered his resignation of his commission in the United States Army. The same day he wrote to General Scott the following letter:

"Arlington, Virginia, April 20, 1861.

"General: Since my interview with you on the 18th inst. I have felt that I ought no longer to retain my commission in the Army. I therefore tender my resignation, which I request you will recommend for acceptance. It would have been presented at once but for the struggle it has cost me to separate myself from a service to which I have devoted the best years of my life, and all the ability I possessed.

"During the whole of that time--more than a quarter of a century--I have experienced nothing but kindness from my superiors and a most cordial friendship from my comrades. To no one, General, have I been as much indebted as to yourself for uniform kindness and consideration, and it has always been my ardent desire to merit your approbation. I shall carry to the grave the most grateful recollections of your kind consideration, and your name and fame shall always be dear to me.

"Save in the defense of my native State, I never desire again to draw my sword.

"Be pleased to accept my most earnest wishes for the continuance of your happiness and prosperity, and believe me most truly yours,

"(Signed)

"R. E. Lee"

His resignation was written the same day.

"Arlington, Washington City P.O., April 20, 1861.

"Honourable Simon Cameron, Secretary of War.

"Sir: I have the honour to tender the resignation of my command as Colonel of the First Regiment of Cavalry.

"Very respectfully your obedient servant,

"R. E. Lee,

"Colonel First Cavalry."

Next: Motives for this step

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How to cite this article

Lee, Robert E. jr., The Recollections & Letters of Robert E. Lee, http://www.historyofwar.org/sources/acw/lee_letters/chapter02b.html, webpage created by Rickard, J (8 June 2006),

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