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‘ [420] were invaded. 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 at Washington,’ 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. General Scott 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. Senator Cameron 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.’ Reverdy Johnson, of Maryland—himself an ardent Union man—repelled the charge, and thereupon General Lee wrote him as follows:

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