James Grant Wilson and John Fiske, eds., "Lee, Robert Edward," Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography (New York: Appleton & Co., 1887), 3: 668.
On 20 April, 1861, three days after the Virginia convention adopted an ordinance of secession, he resigned his commission, in obedience to his conscientious conviction that he was bound by the act of his state. His only authenticated expression of opinion and sentiment on the subject of secession is found in the following passage from a letter written at the time of his resignation to his sister, the wife of an officer in the National army: “We are now in a state of war which will yield to nothing. The whole south is in a state of revolution, into which Virginia, after a long struggle, has been drawn; and though I recognize no necessity for this state of things, and would have forborne and pleaded to the end for redress of grievances, real or supposed, yet in my own person I had to meet the question whether I should take part against my native state. With all my devotion to the Union, and the feeling of loyalty and duty of an American citizen, I have not been able to make up my mind to raise my hand against my relatives, my children, my home. I have therefore resigned my commission in the army, and, save in defence of my native state – with the sincere hope that my poor service may never be needed – I hope I may never be called upon to draw my sword.”