August 8, 1863
Lee Resigns--or Tries To:
---On this date, Gen. Robert E. Lee resigns his command over the Army of Northern Virginia, citing recent defeats, and the fact that “no matter what may be the ability of the officer, if he loses the confidence of his troops disaster must sooner or later ensue.” With his characteristic humility, Lee proceeds to “in all sincerity, request Your Excellency to take measures to supply my place. I do this with the more earnestness because no one is more aware than myself of my inability for the duties of my position.” Several days later, on August 11, Davis answers Lee’s request. And, with his characteristic gallantry and poise, Davis gently refuses Lee’s resignation: “To ask me to substitute you by someone in my judgment more fit to command, or who would possess more of the confidence of the army, or of reflecting men in the country, is to demand an impossibility.”
---George Templeton Strong offers his rather prophetic perspective on the discussion in the newspapers (and in the halls of power) about whether the war is nearly won, and about possible Unionist sentiments in Southern states:
Newspapers brag far too loudly about our having “broken the backbone” of the rebellion and about the development of Union feeling in Tennessee, Mississippi, and North Carolina. The vertebrae of Southern treason still cohere, as we may yet learn to our terrible cost, especially if Lee reinforce himself with the debris of rebellion from the Southwest. And I would not give tenpence for all the loyalty that can be extracted from any slaveholding state except Maryland, Missouri, and Kentucky.