As the southern states began to secede early in 1861, Robert E. Lee, considered to be the most qualified man in the US army,
was offered the command of all the Union forces. Few men have ever had to answer the agonizing question of ambition versus loyalty that Lee faced.
Despite personal objections to both slavery and secession, Lee
declined the appointment. Thus when his home state of Virginia seceded he felt obliged to resign his commission, saying "I struggle to separate myself from a service to which I have devoted all the best years of my
life. Save in defense of my native state, I never desire again to draw my sword."
Not long after, when it became clear that Virginia would surely become a battleground in this conflict, he accepted a general's
commission in the new Confederate army. Just thirteen months