General Lee’s Service Record
The documents shown can be found in General Lee’s service record maintained by the Adjutant General’s Office of the United States Army.
1. The Oath of Allegience General Lee executed in 1855, upon being commissioned leuitenant colonel of the Second Cavalry.
2. A diagram of the route of one of General Lee’s field trips in Texas.
3. A copy of a letter received by Brigadier General Twiggs, from General Scott, dated January 1861, ordering Lee to return to Washington by April 1, 1861.
4. Lee accepts Secretary of War Cameron’s offer of a commission as colonel of the First Cavalry, March 30, 1861. The commission was signed by both Cameron and Lincoln. Lincoln submitted the commission to the Senate on March 21. The commission was confirmed by the Senate on March 23. It was issued on March 25.
5. Lee’s report of his appearance at Washington, April 1, 1861
6. Lee’s tender of his resignation as Colonel Second Cavalry, dated April 20, 1861.
There is no direct evidence in the records of the U.S. War Department that President Lincoln authorized anyone to offer General Lee command of the armed forces of the United States, or any army thereof.
7. Lee’s note of his remarks, made on April 22 in the Virginia State House, in Richmond, offering his sword in defense of the state from invasion.
8. The circular issued by the U.S. Adjutant General, seeking confirmation from the several departments of the army that Lee’s accounts are in order; a prerequiste to transmitting the resignation letter to the Secretary of War for acceptance.
9. War Department documents showing Lee’s resignation was formally “accepted” on April 25, 1861. According to Snow, Southern Generals, their Lives and Campaigns, at pp. 42-44, and Lee by Douglas S. Freeman, p. 464, General Lee was offered by the State of Virginia the commission as brigadier general on April 23, 1861. According to notes in Lee’s U.S. Army service record, he was notified of the acceptance of his resignation as colonel First Cavalry by letter dated April 27, 1861, signed by Asst Adj. General Julies P. Garessche. This letter was addressed to him at Washington D.C. (See Vol 3 Comm & return letterbook, page 211.)
10. Lee’s Service Record
11. General Lee’s Parole, executed April 9, 1865
12. In the spring of 1865, pursuant to a proclamation of amnesty issued by President Johnson, Lee submitted to the War Department a request to be included. The request was not responded to, as the terms of the amnesty excluded Lee and no oath of allegience, as required, accompanied the request. It appears that no evidence exists that Lee ever formally executed an oath of allegience as dictated by the victor.
Examples of the oath process are found in the correspondence of one of Lee’s corps commanders, Richard Ewell.
In June 1865, after being held prisoner for a time, Ewell wrote the following oath and tendered it to the government”
“I, Richard S. Ewell, do solemly swear that I will henceforth faithfully support and defend the constitution of the United States and the Union of the states.”
Later, on July 19, 1865, Ewell was presented with a printed form to sign.
The form oath reads, “I, Richard S. Ewell, do solemnly swear that I will support, protect,and defend the Constitution and Government of the United States against all enemies, whether domestic or foreign; that I will bear true faith, allegience and loyalty to the same. . . .”
Since 1955, when the Congress caused the words “under God” to be inserted in the oath of allegience recited by school children, the oath now reads, “I pledge allegience to the flag of the United States and the government for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
These latter day renditions of the “Oath of Allegience” make a statement distinctly different in material fact from that which General Lee executed in 1855. That oath reads, I solemnly swear I will bear true allegience to the United States of America and that I will serve them against all their enemies. . . “
On July 4, 1868, President Johnson issued a second amnesty proclamation which included Lee within its terms and did not require an oath of allegience.
It would appear that the July 4th amnesty proclamation operated to pardon General Lee for the alleged offense of “treason” (as that term is defined in the U.S. Constitution it does not encompass resistence to Lincoln’s invasion of Virginia). Nine days after the July 4th proclamation was published the 14th amendment to the Constitution was ratified. The third section of the amendment materially restricted Lee’s political rights unless releived by a vote of two thirds of each house of Congress. Following General Lee’s death, on October 18, 1870, Congress removed all political disabilities to which he was subject.
“It is the opinion of the War Department that full and complete amnesty was accorded General Lee by these several proclamations and acts of Congress.”
|Joe Ryan Original Works
|About the author:
Joe Ryan is a Los Angeles trial lawyer who has traveled the route of the Army of Northern Virginia, from Richmond to Gettysburg several times.
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