Sunday, February 13, 2011

February 13, 1861: Robert E. Lee's Orders

On Wednesday, February 13, 1861, Lieutenant Colonel Robert E. Lee of the 2nd U.S. Cavalry received orders to report to General-in-Chief Winfield Scott in Washington.  He set out on the first leg of the journey, to San Antonio, site of departmental headquarters.

Lee's orders were unusual.  A regular reassignment would not involve a personal visit with General Scott.  This must have something to do with military plans against the Confederacy.  If so, Lee planned to resign.  He told a fellow officer, "I shall never bear arms against the Union, but it may be necessary for me to carry a musket in defense of my native state, Virginia, in which case I shall not prove recreant to my duty."

Lee arrived in San Antonio on February 16 to find that the commander of the Department of Texas, Brigadier General David E. Twiggs, had surrendered to the state.  Lee changed into less conspicuous civilian clothes and went to departmental headquarters where he found that the story was true.  State troops informed him that he might not be given transportation out of the state unless he immediately resigned his commission and joined the Confederacy.  Lee instantly refused, but the Texans let him leave anyway.

Lee reached his home at Arlington, Virginia, on March 1.  He reported to Scott on March 5 after Lincoln's inauguration.

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