But I can anticipate no greater calamity for the country than a dissolution of the Union
It would be an accumulation of all the evils we complain of, and I am willing to sacrifice everything but honor for its preservation. * * * Still a union that can only be maintained by swords and bayonets and in which strife and civil war are to take the place of brotherly love and kindness has no charm for me. I shall mourn for my country and for the welfare and progress of mankind.
If the Union
is dissolved and the government disrupted, I shall return to my native State and share the miseries of my people, and save in defense will draw my sword on none.’
Three weeks after this was written he received orders ‘to report to the Commander-in-Chief
,’ and hastening to obey the summons, reached there on the 1st of March, just three days before the inauguration of President Lincoln
His hopes for the averting of civil war were doomed to a sad disappointment, and events followed so rapidly that by the middle of April he was compelled to decide whether he would go with the North
or with Virginia
in the great struggle—whether he would accept the command of the United States armies in the field or ‘share the miseries of his people,’ while he gave up place, fortune and his beautiful home at Arlington
to serve his native Virginia
If any influence could have swerved Lee
from his purpose, it was his friendship for his commander and his high respect for his opinions.
used all of his powers of persuasion to induce him to adhere to the Union
and serve under the ‘old flag,’ and finally Francis Preston Blair
(at General Scott
's suggestion) was sent by Mr. Lincoln
to offer him the supreme command of the United States armies in the field.
This statement has been questioned, but the proof is conclusive.
Besides the positive testimony of Montgomery Blair
, who got it from his father, and of Reverdy Johnson
and other gentlemen, who received it from General Scott
, I found, soon after his death, in General Lee
's private letter book, in his own well-known handwriting, and was permitted to copy, the following letter, which settles the whole question beyond peradventure.
had stated on the floor of the Senate that Lee
had sought to obtain the chief command of the army, and being disappointed, had then ‘gone to Richmond
and joined the Confederates
, of Maryland
—himself an ardent Union man—repelled the charge, and thereupon General Lee
wrote him as follows: