Robert E. Lee

Joseph G. Totten

US. Mil: Academy West Point

7 Jany 1853


I have recd the letter of Cadet H. M. Lazelle to the President of the U. States asking for a remission of a portion of the sentence of a Genl. Court Martial, suspending him from the Mil: Academy, referred to me on the 4th Inst. for a report.

In looking back to the conduct of Cadet Lazelle during the past year, I find that he was arrested & punished for attempting to conceal playing cards in Barrack on the night of 3 Jany 1852. That on the 29 April ’52 he was tried, convicted & punished by a Garrison Court Martial for insubordinate conduct in the Mathematical Academy. That on 2 Aug. ’52, he was reported for unmilitary & discourteous conduct, in persisting to speak to his commy Officer after having been forbidden & warned to desist and that on the 22 Sept ’52, he was guilty of the conduct for which he was tried & suspended by the Genl: Court Martial.

His behavior therefore during the year does not appear to have been marked by subordination or at all times by courtesy to his superior officers, & in the case in question, his plea of acting under hasty & impulsive anger, if admissible in the deportment of a soldier, is not sustained by the finding of the Court in as much as he is there proved guilty of having repeated his offence against Cadet Latimer, during the day, and the last is more aggravated than the first.

If such conduct, as he states, is frequent in the Corps of Cadets, I hope no opportunity will be lost in correcting it, & should the forfeiture of his pay & emoluments be permitted, I fear all the punishment inflicted by the sentence of the Court will be extracted, & the residue will be a benefit. So far then from preventing the repetition of his offense, or deterring others from followg his example, it will operate as an encouragement. You will see by reference to the Cadet Register of last June, that Cadet Lazelle stands foot of his class, & at the time of his suspension 20. Decr. it was considered exceedingly doubtful by his Profr: whether he was sufficiently proficient in his course of Phily. to pass at the present examination. In this event he would have been dismissed the service. But should he have passed the present examination, unless a very great change should have taken place in his conduct, between this and June next, his amount of demerit would have exceeded 200, which would then have caused his dismissal.

That you may form an opinion of his general deportment since his admission into the Academy, I give below a statement of his demerit from the official record of delinquencies, viz:

Amount of demerit during the1stAcademic year110
      [Ditto]2nd      [Ditto]171
      Ditto from July to time of Suspn. 20 Decr.140

I see nothing therefore in his case justifying a mitigation of his sentence, or for extending clemency to him more than to others undergoing the same punishment. But on the contrary find cause for belief that the sentence of the Court has probably saved him from the penalty of dismissal from the service, to which he had rendered himself liable by negligence of his studies & neglect of his duties. Neither do I see any ground for postponing the time appointed by the Court for his rejoining the Acady. It is the time prescribed for each class to commence its academic course, & I know no reason why he should be excepted from the rule applied to others. Upon the recommencement of his pay there will be no object in his continuing in either “near or distant service” for a support, & though painful to mete out punishment, especially to the young, when it becomes necessary, true kindness requires it should be applied with a firm hand, & not converted into a reward.

I regret therefore I can recommend no change in the sentence of the Court.

The letter of Cadet Lazelle is herewith returned.

I remain very respectfully. Yr. obt Servt(Signed) R E Lee Br. Col:
Supt: Mil: Acady

Superintendent’s Daily Correspondence
United States Military Academy

Superintendent’s Letter Book No. 2, pp. 313–14. Addressed “Genl: Jos: G. Totten Chief Engineer Washington City D.C.”