August 4, 2013

This Week in The Civil War, for week of Sunday, Aug. 4

Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee offers to resign


Associated Press

— Barely a month after his army’s defeat at Gettysburg in Pennsylvania, Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee offered to resign 150 years ago this week in the Civil War. Lee, whose military leadership was being questioned after the heavy casualties at Gettysburg, was under the spotlight of trenchant criticism in Southern newspapers. Lee only recently had said he alone shouldered any blame for the defeat — that in a letter days earlier to Confederate President Jefferson Davis. On Aug. 8, 1863, Lee again wrote Davis, this time offering to resign. “I have been prompted by these reflections more than once since my return from Pennsylvania to propose to Your Excellency the propriety of selecting another commander for this army. I have seen and heard of expression of discontent in the public journals at the result of the expedition. I do not know how far this feeling extends in the army ... I, therefore, in all sincerity, request Your Excellency to take measures to supply my place.” Davis declined to accept the offer. In fact, Davis responded that he could find no other “more fit to command” and a general who also had the confidence of his troops.