Not many people remember that in the heat of the Civil War, both Confederate General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson and General Robert E. Lee submitted resignation letters.
General Jackson submitted his resignation over his frustration by being ordered to abandon Romney, VA (now West Virginia) a place he considered to be important enough to hold on to. He was also confused that his orders had come from the Secretary of War, Judah P. Benjamin, instead of his commanding officer General Joe Jackson. His letter follows:
January 31, 1862
Sir: Your order requiring me to direct General Loring to return with his command to Winchester immediately has been received and promptly complied with.
With such interference in my command I cannot expect to be of much service in the field, and accordingly respectfully request to be ordered to report for duty to the superintendent of the Military Institute in Lexington, as has been done in the case of other professors. Should this application not be granted, I respectfully request that the President will accept my resignation from the Army. I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant, T. J., Jackson, Major- General.
Following his defeat at Gettysburg in early July 1863, General Robert E. Lee also offered his resignation to CSA President Jefferson Davis. In Lee’s letter, dated August 8, 1863, the general took the defeat personally and was physically exhausted. His letter said “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…No one is more aware than myself of my ability for the duties of the position. I cannot even accomplish what I myself desire…I therefore, in all sincerity, request Your Excellency to take measure to supply my place.”
General Stonewall Jackson’s resignation was denied. So was General Robert E. Lee’s. Jefferson Davis addressed Lee’s request as follows: To ask me to substitute you by someone…more fit to command, or who would possess more of the confidence of the army…is to demand an impossibility.”
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