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 US Army. He wrote two letters. The first was a brief letter to the Secretary of War resigning his commission in the US Army. The second was to his commanding officer and mentor, General Winfield Scott.
Lee served under Scott during the Mexican 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 US 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
Paper. L 32.7, W 29.3 cm
Arlington House, The Robert E. Lee Memorial, ARHO 5623