Exhibit Preview - Finding Leaders

Both Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis faced a Herculean task in raising and training huge armies and navies on very short notice. Although it was relatively easy to train privates and seamen, it was much more challenging to find and nurture capable officers who could command hundreds or thousands of men.

  • How did Lincoln and Davis find good military leaders?

  • Where did these officers come from?

  • How did these men know each other?

The documents in this area reveal stories of friendship and betrayal, competence and ineptitude, as the two sides sought out the best men to lead.

Robert E. Lee's Letter of Resignation

Lee was not alone

Hundreds of officers in the U.S. Army, Navy, and Marine Corps–including Robert E. Lee-resigned their commissions when their home or adopted states seceded. The officers' letters were addressed to their commanders, the adjutant general, the secretary of war or navy, or even the President. Sometimes these resignations followed the acceptance of commissions in the Confederate States Army or state armies.

National Archives, Records of the Adjutant General's Office, 1780's – 1917

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confederate constitution