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 Posted: Tue Jun 15th, 2010 12:18 pm
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Texas Defender
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peon-

  Once again I must take issue with one of your: "assumptions." You apparently believe that leaving the U.S. Army and going back to Virginia was an easy choice for then Colonel Lee. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Many different sources can be found that mention Lee agonizing over the decision.

  In early1861, Lee was back in Texas when that state was in the process of seceding from the Union. When I visited the Nimitz Hotel (now a museum) in Fredericksburg, Texas, there was a document there written by a woman who was staying at the hotel one evening when Robert E. Lee was also there. She described hearing him pacing the floor all night above her room.

  In February of 1861, Union troops were being run out of Texas, and it was time to leave. Lee said to a friend: "If Virginia stands by the old Union, so will I. But if she secedes, I will follow my native state with my sword and if need be my life."

  In April of 1861, Lee was offered a major command in the Union Army by Francis P. Blair. In response, he said: "Mr. Blair, I  look upon secession as anarchy. If I owned four millions of slaves, I would sacrifice them all to the Union; but how can I draw my sword on Virginia, my native state?" (18 April 1861).

  In Alexandria, Virginia the following day, he said , regarding secession: "I must say that I am one of those dull creatures that cannot see the good of secession."

  After his meeting with his old friend, General Winfield Scott, Lee made his final decision to leave the U.S. Army. He said: "In the prime of life, I quit a service in which were all my hopes and expectations in this world."

  To his wife, Lee said: "Well, Mary, the question is settled. Here is my letter of resignation and a letter I have written General Scott."  (20 April 1861). Mary Custis Lee had said that she would accept whatever decision her husband made, though apparently her preference was for the Union.

  On that day he wrote a letter to his sister, Anne Marshall. He said: "With all my devotion to the Union and the feeling of loyalty and duty of an American citizen I have not been able to make up my mind to raise my hand against my relatives, my children, my home."

  So- this was the decision that Lee had to make. He could choose the Union and perhaps have to draw his sword against Virginians. Or he could choose to go with his state and perhaps have to draw his sword against the Union. He had to choose between the things he loved when they went against each other. In the end, he chose his state.

  Faced with the same decision, some Virginians made the other choice. In this forum, there is a lengthy discussion of this matter as it related to one who went the other way, George H. Thomas.

General George H. Thomas - The People of the Civil War - Civil War Talk - Civil War Interactive Discussion Board

  The choice was no easier for Thomas as his relatives had expected him to go the other way. He never reconciled with them.

  For Lee and Thomas, and many other Virginians, there would be dire consequences, regardless of which way they chose to go. Lee knew that if there was war, that the estate at Arlington would be occupied. But in 1861, even he could not have imagined Arlington's eventual fate. It was taken over by the Union Army, and eventually, due to the enmity of General Montgomery Meigs, it was turned into a cemetery.

  After the war, General Lee's descendants fought a long battle in court to regain the estate. After years of struggle, the decision went against the U.S. Government and the Lee family was given a cash settlement rather than having to have thousands of soldiers disinterred.

  The thread that we are following was initiated by the member: "pam c." She mentions reading the work of the author Elizabeth Brown Pryor. Here is a discussion with that author that discusses in Part Three, among other things, the situation with Arlington.

A Conversation with Elizabeth Brown Pryor

  This author was able to gain insight into Robert E. Lee the man, as well as the Custis family,  from thousands of documents that Lee's daughter Mary had kept for many years before her death in 1918. Pryor called Lee's letters: "A window into the soul of a very private person."

  Perhaps a soldier can best be described by other soldiers. Winfield Scott said of Robert E. Lee: "The very best soldier I ever saw in the field." (8 May 1857). Another soldier of note said: "So great is my confidence in General Lee that I am willing to follow him blindfolded." (Thomas J. Jackson, 8 July, 1862).

 

Last edited on Tue Jun 15th, 2010 12:56 pm by Texas Defender

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