Robert E. Lee
April 20, 1861
Mrs. Anne Marshall
My Dear Sister:
I am grieved at my inability to see you.
I have been waiting for a more convenient season, which has brought to many
before me deep and lasting regret. Now we are in a state of war
which will yield to nothing. The whole South is in a state of
revolution, into which Virginia, after a long struggle, has been drawn; and
though I recognize no necessity for the state of things, and would have
forborne and pleaded to the end for redress of grievances, real or supposed,
yet in my own person I had to meet the question whether I should take part
against my native State.
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 relative, my children, my home.
I have, therefore, resigned my commission in the Army, and save in defense of
my native State (with the sincere hope that my poor services may never be needed)
I hope I may never be called upon to draw my sword.
I know you will blame me, but you must think as kindly
as you can, and believe that I have endeavored to do what I thought right.
To show you the feeling and struggle it has cost me I send you a copy of my letter
of resignation. I have no time for more. May God guard
and protect you and yours and shower upon you everlasting blessings, is the prayer of
Your devoted brother,
R. E. Lee
April 20, 1861
Sydney Smith Lee
My Dear Brother Smith:
The question which was the subject of my earnest
consultation with you on the 18th instant has in my own mind been decided.
After the most anxious inquiry as to the correct course for me to pursue, I
concluded to resign, and sent in my resignation this morning.
I wished to wait till the Ordinance of Secession should be acted on by the
people of Virginia; but war seems to have commenced, and I am liable at any
time to be ordered on duty which I could not conscientiously perform.
To save me from such a position, and to prevent the necessity of resigning
under orders, I had to act at once, and before I could see you again on the
subject, as I had wished. I am now a private citizen, and have no
other ambition than to remain at home. Save in defense of my native
State, I have no desire ever again to draw my sword. I send you
my warmest love.
Your affectionate brother,
R. E. Lee
SOURCE: Reprinted in Clifford Dowdey, editor,
The Wartime Papers of R. E. Lee (New York: Bramhall House, 1961),
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