Is it true that Robert E. Lee was offered command of both sides in the Civil War?

Yes. Within the span of a few days in April 1861, Lee was offered command of both the Union and Confederate forces.

Although he opposed slavery and secession and believed the South could not win, his loyalty to his home state of Virginia led him to accept the Confederate command.

1 thought on “Is it true that Robert E. Lee was offered command of both sides in the Civil War?”

  1. You should learn about Lee’s slave ledgers. The Lee family and Virginia Historical Society finally let one person study Lee’s personal papers — including his slave ledgers. Only one person was allowed to study them at length, a Lee devotee named Elizabeth Pryor.

    Ms Pryor wrote a very flattering book –” Reading the Man” but the facts in it are astonishing. Lee did have his own slaves, and did NOT free his wife’s slaves for years, and then had to be ordered to free them repeatedly, according to his own paperwork.

    Much more disturbing, Lee used bounty hunters – perhaps dozens of them — to catch the many escaped slaves. When Lee took over control of his wife’s slaves they started to escape, because of his brutal treatment. Lee’s father had a slave girl hung for knocking down a white man — and Lee used the same violent approach – whippings. In fact, Lee even had slave girls whipped, according to his own hand written records.

    No Lee was NOT anti slavery, far from it. Yes, in one letter, he does say slavery is a politcal and moral evil — but read the rest of the letter! He actually defends the torture (painful discipline) as something slaves MUST endure. God knows and intends slavery to be painful, Lee wrote. Pain is “necessary for their instructions”.

    Furthermore newspapers before the Civil War — three of them at least — reported cruelties at Arlington. Lee’s regular overseer refused to whip a girl because she was too young — and Lee was furious, he paid another man, a bounty hunter, to whip her. According to all three newspapers, Lee screamed at the girl as she was being whipped.

    Scholars have known about those newspaper reports – but didn’t even tell the public. Supposely it could not be true. Oh yeah, it was true, in fact, it was nothing unusual for Lee. Pryor was able to find in Lee’s slave ledgers, those dates, mentioned by the newspapers. She found entries –by Lee himself — for payments to the men named for bounties, and for whipping.

    Furthermore, after the Civil War, reporters talked to ex slaves who were digging graves at Arlington, and asked them about the newspapers reports. They too confirmed the facts — and mentioned things were verified in Lee’s papers for the dates and people in question.

    So yes, Lee did have slaves whipped, and slave girls too, and paid bounties for slaves.

    SO no, he was not against slavery.

    As to being offered command, that’s dubious too. A general was with Scott during the interview — according to his account, Lee would not even tell Scott what side he was on, so Scott sent him home. There was no offer made. Apparently Scott was sounding Lee out about it, but never offered him anything without knowing which side he was on.

    Furthermore Lee accepted a promotion from Lincoln to full colonel, and Lee had to take his oath upon promotion. The oath is quite clear, quite emphatic. Lee’s oath made him vow to report any attempt or communication about disloyalty to the President PERSONALLY. Lee had already spoken to others about Davis miliary plans for a coup, as Davis hoped to do, if LIncoln even came to DC. Just hearing those plans – if Lee did nothing (and he did not) was treason, because of his oath. Lee should have resigned on the spot, or arrested the persons even talking about a coup. Lee stayed in US uniform, accepted a promotion, all the while knowing of Davis plans for military coup

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