Page:Confederate Military History - 1899 - Volume 1.djvu/680

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CONFEDERATE MILITARY HISTORY.

every proper step for redress. But he anticipated no greater calamity than a dissolution of the Union and would sacrifice everything but honor for its preservation. He termed secession a revolution, but said that a Union that can only be maintained by swords and bayonets had no charms for him. " If the Union is dissolved and the government disrupted, I shall return to my native State and share the miseries of my people; and save in defense will draw my sword on none.

About a month later Lee was summoned to Washington to report to General Scott and reached the capital on the 1st of March, only a few days before the inauguration of Lincoln. He was then just fifty-four years of age, and dating from his cadetship at West Point had been in the military service of the government about thirty-six years. He had reached the exact prime of maturity; in form, features, and general bearing the type of magnificent man hood; educated to thoroughness; cultivated by extensive reading, wide experience, and contact with the great men of the period; with a dauntless bravery tested and improved by military perils in many battle; his skill in war recognized as of the highest order by comrades and commanders; and withal a patriot in whom there was no guile and a man without reproach. Bearing this record and character, Lee appeared at the capital of the country he loved, hoping that wisdom in its counsels would avert coercion and that this policy would lead to reunion. Above all others he was the choice of General Scott for the command of the United States army, and the aged hero seems to have earnestly urged the supreme command upon him. Francis P. Blair also invited him to a conference and said, "I come to you on the part of President Lincoln to ask whether any inducement that he can offer will prevail on you to take command of the Union army." To this alluring offer Lee at once replied courteously but candidly that though "opposed to secession and deprecating war he would take no part in the