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Sale 2333 Lot 14
"I CAN NEITHER DECLINE PROMOTION OR SERVICE" LEE, ROBERT E. Autograph Letter Signed, "RELee," as Superintendent of West Point, to George W. Callum, expressing regret at his departure from the Corps of Engineers to accept an appointment [as Lt. Colonel of the 2nd Cavalry], stating his preference for Engineer duty to that of Cavalry during peacetime, and remarking on Academy business including assuring Callum that he shall continue his work on the Register of [the Officers and] Graduates. West Point, 13 March 1855
Estimate $25,000 - 35,000
". . . I assure you my separation from the Corps of Engrs is attended with bitter regret . . . .
" While acknowledging the compliment bestowed on me by the Pres: as unexpected as undeserved, I confess my preference in time of peace for Engr duty over that of Cavalry; But so long as I continue an Officer of the Army, I can neither decline promotion or service . . . .
". . . The item introduced into my estimate for the Register of Graduates has been granted. I shall give to my successor your Mem: & inform him of our understanding as to your undertaking its preparation . . . .
"Mr. Newlands has not yet been able to finish the record of changes in the Register he loaned us. I will endeavor to have it completed and returned to you before I leave . . . ."
George Washington Callum (1809-1892) was a West Point military engineering instructor who compiled a few editions of the Biographical Register of the Officers and Graduates of the United States Military Academy, later serving as superintendent of the Academy (1864-66) just as Lee had. During the War, he fought for the Union under General Halleck.
Provenance: Christie's, 14 May 1992, lot 99.