Office and Studio

Robert E. Lee in a Confederate uniform.
Lee, pictured here in 1863, never wore the Confederate uniform in this house. Three days after his resignation from the US Army, he was appointed commander in chief of Virginia’s military.

Virginia Historical Society

A Consequential Decision

Robert E. Lee changed the course of American history in this room on April 20, 1861. He rejected President Lincoln’s offer of command of the US Army and resigned from his decades-long career. He wrote, “I have been unable to make up my mind to raise my hand against my native state, my relations, my children, and my home.” He knew that his wife and children would soon be forced to flee their beloved Arlington.

“Lee, you have made the greatest mistake of your life.”
–General Winfield Scott, 1861

Ford signing a document on the portico of Arlington.
Ford sat at the desk, believed to belong to Lee, now in this room. The US Army Chief of Engineers donated this desk to Arlington House in 1913.

National Archives

A Long-Awaited Pardon

As punishment for fighting for the Confederacy, Lee, like all other Confederates, lost his rights as a US citizen. To regain those rights, Lee submitted a request for a presidential pardon two months after his surrender. His request was denied, and he died without his rights restored. Still, his action inspired thousands to follow his lead—the first real step toward reunification.

Using Lee’s desk in this room, President Gerald Ford officially pardoned Lee in 1975.

“General Lee’s character has been an example to succeeding generations, making the restoration of his citizenship an event in which every American can take pride.”
–President Gerald Ford, August 5, 1975
A green room with desks.
The Office


Arlington House First Floor Floorplan
First Floor
North Slave Quarters Museum Exhibit Miss Judy's Quarters Portico Bath and Water Closet Outer Hall Pantry Inner Hall Dining Room Store Room White Parlor Hunting Hall Conservatory School Room Morning Room Family Parlor Guest Chamber Custis Bedchamber Center Hall Office and Studio Selina Gray's Quarters Summer Kitchen / George Clark's Quarters South Slave Quarters museum exhibit Smokehouse
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Last updated: April 18, 2024

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Contact Info

Mailing Address:

Arlington House, The Robert E. Lee Memorial
700 George Washington Memorial Parkway
c/o Turkey Run Park

McLean, VA 22101


703 235-1530

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