PRIMARY DOCUMENT

Statement by Francis Preston Blair (April 14, 1871)

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History of the United States from the Compromise of 1850History of the United States from the Compromise of 1850
SUMMARY

In this statement made on April 14, 1871, Francis Preston Blair, a former aide to President Abraham Lincoln, describes a conversation he had with Robert E. Lee in 1861, on behalf of Lincoln and Secretary of War Simon Cameron, about the possibility of Lee taking charge of the U.S. Army. Blair’s report and Lee’s response, contained in a later letter, are all contained in a footnote of volume 3 of History of the United States from the Compromise of 1850 by James Ford Rhodes (1895). Lee’s letter first appeared in Memoirs of Robert E. Lee by A. L. Long (1886).

FULL TEXT

History of the United States from the Compromise of 1850

“The matter was talked over by President Lincoln and myself for some hours on two or three different occasions. Secretary Cameron and myself talked some hours on the same subject. The President and Secretary Cameron expressed themselves as anxious to give the command of our army to Robert E. Lee. I considered myself as authorized to inform General Lee of that fact. I do not believe that Secretary Chase was consulted on the subject or that there was any regular cabinet consultation, for the reason that Lee did not agree to take command of the army.”

Statement made by Captain James May, of Rock Island, Ill., to Chief-Justice Chase, April 28, 1871, in Washington.—Chase Papers, MS. In this manner I shall refer to the private papers of Salmon P. Chase which have been kindly placed at my disposal by his daughters, Mrs. Chase and Mrs. Hoyt, through the instrumentality of Professor Albert Bushnell Hart.

— page 366 —
History of the United States from the Compromise of 1850

See, also, Montgomery Blair to Bryant, National Intelligencer, Aug. 9, 1866, cited by Nicolay and Hay, vol. iv. p. 98. Lee himself wrote to Reverdy Johnson, Feb. 25, 1868, as follows: “I never intimated to any one that I desired the command of the United States army, nor did I ever have a conversation but with one gentleman, Mr. Francis Preston Blair, on the subject, which was at his invitation, and, as I understood, at the instance of President Lincoln.

“After listening to his remarks I declined the offer he made me to take command of the army that was to be brought into the field, stating, as candidly and courteously as I could, that, though opposed to secession and deprecating war, I could take no part in an invasion of the Southern States.

“I went directly from the interview with Mr. Blair to the office of General Scott—told him of the proposition that had been made to me and my decision. Upon reflection, after returning home, I concluded that I ought no longer to retain any commission I held in the United States army, and on the second morning thereafter I forwarded my resignation to General Scott.

“At the time I hoped that peace would have been preserved—that some way would be found to save the country from the calamities of war; and I then had no other intention than to pass the remainder of my life as a private citizen.

“Two days afterwards, on the invitation of the governor of Virginia, I repaired to Richmond, found that the convention then in session had passed the ordinance withdrawing the State from the Union, and accepted the commission of commander of its forces which was tendered me. These are the simple facts of the case.”—Life of Lee, Long, p. 93.

FURTHER READING

Letter from Robert E. Lee to Charles Carter Lee (January 4, 1831) Letter from Robert E. Lee to Mary Anna Randolph Custis Lee (December 25, 1861) Letter from Robert E. Lee to Charles Carter Lee (September 28, 1832) Letter from Robert E. Lee to Charles Carter Lee (February 24, 1835) Letter from Robert E. Lee to Hill Carter (January 25, 1840) Letter from Robert E. Lee to Mary Randolph Custis Lee (April 18, 1841) Letter from Robert E. Lee to Mary Randolph Custis Lee (December 27, 1856) “Some Facts That Should Come to Light,” New-York Tribune (June 24, 1859) Col. R. E. Lee’s Report (October 19, 1859) Letter from Robert E. Lee to Ulysses S. Grant (October 3, 1864) Letter from Robert E. Lee to Mary Randolph Custis Lee (January 24, 1864) Letter from Robert E. Lee to Ulysses S. Grant (October 3, 1864) Letter from Howell Cobb to James A. Seddon (January 8, 1865) [future url="PS_LeeBarksdale1865"]Letter from Robert E. Lee to Ethelbert Barksdale (February 18, 1865) “Some Facts That Should Come to Light,” New-York Tribune (June 24, 1859) Robert E. Lee’s Testimony before Congress (February 17, 1866) Memoranda of Conversations with General Robert E. Lee by William Allan (1868, 1870) Memoranda of Conversations with General Robert E. Lee by William Preston Johnston (1868, 1870) Letter from Robert E. Lee to Robert E. Lee Jr. (March 12, 1868) Letter from Robert E. Lee to Captain Wagner (May 4, 1868) Letter from Robert E. Lee to Mary Randolph Custis Lee (November 11, 1863) “General Lee’s Views on Enlisting the Negroes,” Century Magazine (August 1888) Letter from Robert E. Lee to Edward Lee Childe (January 16, 1868) Letter from Robert E. Lee to Jefferson Davis (September 2, 1864) Henry Lee IV to William Berkeley Lewis (July 26, 1833) Letter from Robert E. Lee to Henry Lee (December 6, 1859)

CITE THIS ENTRY
APA Citation:
Blair, Francis. Statement by Francis Preston Blair (April 14, 1871). (2020, December 07). In Encyclopedia Virginia. https://encyclopediavirginia.org/entries/statement-by-francis-preston-blair-april-14-1871.
MLA Citation:
Blair, Francis. "Statement by Francis Preston Blair (April 14, 1871)" Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Humanities, (07 Dec. 2020). Web. 25 Oct. 2021
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