Robert E. Lee

Joseph G. Totten

US Mil: Academy West Point

15 Oct. 1853.


I have received the Communication of the Honble J. P. Hale in the case of Musr O’Neil referred to me on the 13th Inst: for a report. Passing over the history of the enlistment & Services of Mr. O’Neil, I will state that no complaint has been made against him, but that it was the conduct of his wife, that the P. Offr. of the Post found it necessary to condemn. I enclose his report of the circumstance at the time, with the additional statement by him, that Mrs. O’Neil was told by the Policeman in charge of her son, that she must not take him away until he had seen him; & that upon his return & sending for him, she refused to send him back, on the plea that she had sent him on an errand & that her husband would answer for him, when he subsequently sent for Mrs. O’Neil herself to come to his office (not quarters) she positively refused, though afterwards on the advice of the Sergt., sent word she had a small child & could not come.

The families at the Point, are allowed to reside in such quarters as are available, on condition that they conform to the regns. of the Post. If they are unwilling to do so, the only alternative is for them to remove. No other control over them is desired. It was to this condition that Mrs. O’Neil by her disobedience of the orders of Major Thomas reduced herself; & for the prevention of similar offences & the necessity of example & good order, it was thought necessary to enforce the penalty. After it had been exacted however, & Mrs. O’Neil had removed from the Point, in consideration of the cause of the offense & the probable feelings under which the orders of Major Thomas had been violated, & after the application of Musn. O’Neil for a discharge had been refused by the Adjt: Genl, he was informed that he could recall his family, provided his wife was sensible of her error & would promise in future to give no further cause of complaint. This has been declined.

I do not think that the transgression of a member of the family of an individual in the Army, or the penalty & inconvenience they thereby bring upon themselves, is a proper ground to entitle the individual to be discharged from the service. I was for this reason, that though regretting the circumstances, I could not recommend Musn. O’Neil’s application for discharge. He has still the priviledge of occupying his quarters & that his family has not is their own fault. I return the letters transmitted to me

& have the honour to be your obedt ServtSigd. R. E. Lee Br. Col.
Supt: Mil: Acady

Superintendent’s Daily Correspondence
United States Military Academy

Superintendent’s Letter Book No. 3, p. 61. Addressed “Genl: Jos: G. Totten Chief Engineer Washington City D.C.”