“I Declined the Offer He Made Me”

[size= 13px; line-height: 18px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif][b]April 18, 1861[/b][/size]

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Robert E. Lee

[size= 13px; line-height: 18px; font-family: Arial]U.S. Army Colonel Robert E. Lee visited powerful Unionist politician Francis P. Blair, who extended him a proposition. Blair, with the approval of Lincoln and U.S. Army General-in-chief Winfield Scott, offered Lee command of the entire Union army that was about to take the field against the southern Confederacy.[/size]

[size= 13px; line-height: 18px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]Lee, 54, had been the army since he was 18. He graduated from West Point, served with Scott in the Mexican War, served as West Point commandant, and was currently a commander of cavalry. On leave from his post in Texas, Lee had led a contingent of Marines that put down John Brown’s raid on the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Virginia, in October 1859.[/size]

[size= 13px; line-height: 18px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]Scott called Lee “the very best soldier I ever saw in the field,” and he had convinvced Lincoln he was the man for the job. Scott, old and corpulent, couldn’t even mount a horse let alone lead an army in a rigorous campaign.[/size]

[size= 13px; line-height: 18px; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]Blair made the initial proposition to Lee. Lee immediately declined it. He later wrote:[/size]

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[quote]I never intimated to any one that I desired the command of the United States Army; nor did I ever have a conversation with but one gentleman, Mr. Francis Preston Blair, on the subject, which was at his invitation, and, as I understood, at the insistance of President Lincoln. After listening to his remarks, I declined the offer he made me, to take command of the army that was to be brought into the field; stating, as candidly and as courteously as I could, that, through opposed to secession and deprecating war, I could take not part in an invasion of the Southern States.[/quote][size= 13px; line-height: 18px; background-color: #cccccc; font-family: Arial][/size]

[size= 13px; line-height: 18px; font-family: Arial]Lee then went to Scott’s office and told him the same thing. Lee, however, stopped short of resigning from the United States Army.[/size]

Sources:
[size= 13px; line-height: 18px; font-family: Arial]Long, [i]Day by Day[/i][/size]
[size= 13px; line-height: 18px; font-family: Arial]Clifford Dowdey and Louis H. Manarin, eds. [i]The Wartime Papers of R.E. Lee[/i][/size]

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