Robert E. Lee: Resignation Letter

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General Robert E. Lee: Copy of Original Resignation Letter

General Robert E. Lee: Copy of U.S. Army Resignation Letter (Original Copy)

General Robert E. Lee US Army Resignation Letter
General Robert E Lee  Resignation Letter.jpg
(Original Copy)

Robert E. Lee's Letter to General Winfield Scott Explaining His Resignation
April 20, 1861

On the night of April 19, 1861, Colonel Robert E. Lee resolved to resign his commission in the U.S. Army. He wrote two letters. The first was a brief letter to the Secretary of War resigning his commission in the U.S. Army. The second was to his commanding officer and mentor, General Winfield Scott.

Lee served under Scott during the Mexican-American War and respected him as a leader and a friend. In this letter, Lee explained his reasons for his resignation and thanked General Scott for his kindness. Only a few days earlier, Scott had sent him to the office of Francis Blair, where Lee was offered command of the U.S. Army. Lee declined this offer and in this letter, explained his decision to General Scott.

Arlington, Washington City, P.O
20 Apr 1861

Lt. Genl Winfield Scott
Commd U.S. Army

Since my interview with you on the 18th Inst: I have felt that I ought not longer to retain any 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 divoted all the best years of my life, & 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 & the most Cordial friendships from any Comrades. To no one Genl have I been as much indebted as to yourself for kindness & Consideration & it has always been my ardent desire to merit your approbation. I shall carry with me, to the grave the most grateful recollections of your kind Consideration, & your name & fame will always be dear to me. Save in the defense of my native state shall I ever again draw my sword. Be pleased to accept any more [illegible] wishes for “the Continuance of your happiness & prosperity & believe me

Most truly yours
R E Lee

Source: Paper. L 32.7, W 29.3 cm
Arlington House, The Robert E. Lee Memorial, ARHO 5623

Recommended Reading: The Wartime Papers Of Robert E. Lee (1012 pages). Description: This monumental contribution to the literature of the Civil War brings together Lee’s official correspondence—letters, orders, dispatches, battle reports—with his touching letters to his family, thus providing a previously unavailable view of Lee’s life during the war. From the more than 6,000 items, the editors have chosen to reprint many letters in full for the first time, so that Lee is seen complete, self-revealed, in all his dignity and purpose. Continued below.

Short narratives connect each section—on the mobilization of Virginia, Chancellorsville and Gettysburg, and the siege of Petersburg and Appomattox. Sponsored by the Virginia Civil War Commission to commemorate the Civil War Centennial, this expert work of scholarship dramatizes Lee’s life as only his own correspondence could. As Lee himself said: ”Letters are good representatives of our minds. They certainly present a good criterion for judging of the character of the individual.”

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Recommended Reading: The Recollections and Letters of General Robert E. Lee (Civil War Library) (Hardcover). Description: Recollections and Letters shows all the varying facets of Lee's character. His letters reveal his personal warmth, bravery and concern for the South during and after the war. Continued below...
No other collection of source materials gives such a whole and rewarding picture of one of the South's greatest sons and heroes.
Recommended Reading: The Maxims Of Robert E. Lee For Young Gentlemen: Advice, Admonitions, and Anecdotes on Christian Duty and Wisdom from the Life of General Lee. Description: All his life, Robert E. Lee relied upon his faith for strength and guidance not only in troubled times, but also as the foundation upon which he based all of his dealings with others. In this age where self-interest often rules, these short statements, often jotted by General Lee at odd moments, provide young readers with some of the qualities that Lee practiced himself: humility, erudition, faith, duty, wisdom, and respect for all God's creations. Continued below…

Each section is preceded by a brief anecdote from his life, and each of the quotes is described with the time and circumstance. Reviews: "Richard G. Williams, Jr. offers a sublime figure as counterpoint to the hedonistic 'heroes' of the instant gratification set..." -- Blue & Gray Magazine, Summer 2005. "The sayings and writings attributed to Lee or quoted by him are...useful and valuable...The book is nicely done." -- The Civil War Courier, October 2005

About the Author: Rick Williams, active in historic and preservation societies, is a seventh-generation Virginian who maintains a busy writing and speaking schedule. He promotes the values and traditions of the Christian gentleman in books and literature of the eighteenth, nineteenth, and early twentieth century. This interest propelled his writing of the Maxims of Robert E. Lee for Young Gentlemen. Mr. Williams has served three four-year terms as a magistrate for the Commonwealth of Virginia and was a gubernatorial appointee of former Virginia governor, George Allen. He is a member of the Rockbridge County Historical Society, the Augusta County Historical Society, the Virginia Historical Society, the Highland County Historical Society, the Civil War Preservation Trust, the Museum of the Confederacy and currently serves as chaplain for the Stonewall Brigade Camp of the Lexington, Virginia, Sons of Confederate Veterans. Mr. Williams has served in various Christian ministries, including formerly working as a field representative for the Christian Law Association and serving as a Sunday school teacher for the past 25 years. He writes a regular column, "Business Lessons from History," for Business Reform Magazine and is a regular contributor to The Washington Times' Civil War Column. His articles have also appeared in Homeschooling Today Magazine and other Christian publications. He has lectured at Liberty University’s annual Civil War Seminar and at Lee Chapel in Lexington, Virginia. He is a member of the Bonnie Blue Literary Society, an organization that encourages historical research and publishing of Confederate history. He assisted constitutional attorney and law professor, John Eidsmoe, in producing the award-winning video series, Institute on the Constitution.


Recommended Reading: Lee, by Douglas Southall Freeman. Description: Douglas Southall Freeman's multi-volume "R. E. Lee" may have been published nearly three-quarters of a century ago, but this abridged version remains the best single biography ever written about the legendary Confederate general. Although there have been numerous books written about Lee, none have come as close to capturing Lee's military genius, or why so many Southerners enthusiastically fought and died under his banner, as does Freeman's work. When it was first published "Lee" was a sensation, and in the 1930's only Margaret Mitchell's wildly fictionalized "Gone With the Wind" surpassed it in sales and publicity. Senator Harry Truman read every volume, as did other famous political and military leaders. Freeman's work did much to spread the "Lee Legend" outside the South and made Lee into a national, and not merely regional, icon. In Freeman's elegant prose, Robert Edward Lee is nearly perfect in every respect - he is a modest, deeply religious man who dislikes slavery and secession but reluctantly agrees to side with his native state of Virginia when the Civil War begins. Continued below...

If the rest of Freeman's story sounds familiar it is because this book made it so. Lee, despite facing constant shortages of men and supplies, meets the overwhelming forces of the Northern States and defeats them in battle after battle. Yet after each defeat the Northerners simply recruit new soldiers, resupply their vast armies, and come after Lee's valiant but shrinking forces again and again. In the end not even Lee's tactical genius can save the outnumbered and outgunned Confederates from eventual (and in Freeman's opinion, inevitable) defeat. Naturally, some historians have not agreed with this view of the Old South's greatest icon, and later books on the "Gray Fox" have disputed Freeman's assertions that Lee was opposed to slavery and secession, or that his military decisions were always correct. There have been numerous books written about Robert E Lee, but none have done so well at portraying his life or in explaining why, even today, Lee’s legend thrives and his tactics are studied at military academies throughout the world. A genuine "must-read" for any Civil War buff or student of military history.

Recommended Reading: General Lee's Army: From Victory to Collapse (624 pages). Editorial Review (Publishers Weekly): You cannot say that University of North Carolina professor Glatthaar (Partners in Command) did not do his homework in this massive examination of the Civil War–era lives of the men in Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. Glatthaar spent nearly 20 years examining and ordering primary source material to ferret out why Lee's men fought, how they lived during the war, how they came close to winning, and why they lost. Continued below.

Glatthaar marshals convincing evidence to challenge the often-expressed notion that the war in the South was a rich man's war and a poor man's fight and that support for slavery was concentrated among the Southern upper class. Lee's army included the rich, poor and middle-class, according to the author, who contends that there was broad support for the war in all economic strata of Confederate society. He also challenges the myth that because Union forces outnumbered and materially outmatched the Confederates, the rebel cause was lost, and articulates Lee and his army's acumen and achievements in the face of this overwhelming opposition. This well-written work provides much food for thought for all Civil War buffs.


Recommended Reading: Robert E. Lee on Leadership : Executive Lessons in Character, Courage, and Vision. Description: Robert E. Lee was a leader for the ages. The man heralded by Winston Churchill as "one of the noblest Americans who ever lived" inspired an out-manned, out-gunned army to achieve greatness on the battlefield. He was a brilliant strategist and a man of unyielding courage who, in the face of insurmountable odds, nearly changed forever the course of history. "A masterpiece—the best work of its kind I have ever read. Crocker's Lee is a Lee for all leaders to study; and to work, quite deliberately, to emulate." — Major General Josiah Bunting III, Superintendent of the Virginia Military Institute. Continued below...

In this remarkable book, you'll learn the keys to Lee's greatness as a man and a leader. You'll find a general whose standards for personal excellence was second to none, whose leadership was founded on the highest moral principles, and whose character was made of steel. You'll see how he remade a rag-tag bunch of men into one of the most impressive fighting forces history has ever known. You'll also discover other sides of Lee—the businessman who inherited the debt-ridden Arlington plantation and streamlined its operations, the teacher who took a backwater college and made it into a prestigious university, and the motivator who inspired those he led to achieve more than they ever dreamed possible. Each chapter concludes with the extraordinary lessons learned, which can be applied not only to your professional life, but also to your private life as well.

Today's business world requires leaders of uncommon excellence who can overcome the cold brutality of constant change. Robert E. Lee was such a leader. He triumphed over challenges people in business face every day. Guided by his magnificent example, so can you.


"A splendid and inspiring book, Robert E. Lee on Leadership offers enormously valuable lessons for all of us today, and should be required reading in the White House, the State Department, and the Pentagon, at least."

— Caspar Weinberger, former Secretary of Defense, chairman of Forbes magazine

"As Harry Crocker reminds us, the principles that guided Robert e. Lee were grounded in the finest traditions of American values. Robert E. Lee on Leadership is a timely and valuable reflection on character, and on the personal and spiritual convictions that make for great leaders."

— S. Patrick Presley, director of Federal Government Affairs, British Petroleum

"A moving and illuminating look at Lee the man, so that thoughtful people can learn from him how to succeed in the business of life."

— Dinesh D'Souza, author of Ronald Reagan: How an Ordinary Man Became an Extraordinary Leader

"Harry Crocker has provided a great service by reminding us through this moving and tightly written biography that winning isn't the only thing: faithfulness and honor live in our memories after the guns are silent."

— Marvin Olasky, author of the bestselling Renewing American Compassion and The American Leadership Tradition

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