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Robert E. Lee

Joseph G. Totten

U.S. Mil. Academy West Point

8 July 1854

General,

I have recd. today the application of Cadet Jas. A. Whistler for another examination in Chemistry, referred to me on the 6th Inst. It is true as stated by him, that his proficiency on first going over the course, entitled him to be transferred from the lowest to the next section, which was accordingly done on the commencement of the review of the course, viz. on 25 March. It is also true that although his recitation marks on review were not as good as before, still his average mark for the whole time was 2.2, & that for the whole time he received 130.6, a higher mark than any of those pronounced deficient; & higher than two of those who were pronounced proficient viz: Cadets Hill & Pease; whose marks respectively were 129.8 & 125.4. During the review of the course however Cadet Whistler’s marks were 59.1, whereas Cadet Hill’s were 66.1 & Cadet Pease 58.1, showing that the two latter were improving, while the former was retrograding—It is also true as stated by Cadet W., I am sorry to say, that he passed a prior examination, & that by the Academic Board it was considered a complete failure, & that although his marks were better than those with whom he was classed, they could not in justice separate him from them & the vote for his deficiency was unanimous. Cadets Hill & Pease on the contrary passed very satisfactory examinations. The subjects given him (Cadet W.) as to the others, though simple, were selected as involving the principles of Chemistry, separated in the course, with a view that he might show his proficiency, of which there was doubt in the mind of his instructor. I regret to say therefore that I know of no claim he has for a re-examination over any others that have come before the Board.

In reference to his amount of demerit, I know of no grounds for his belief in the practicability of its reduction, except the indulgence that has hitherto been extended to him. From the period of his return from sick leave on the 28th Aug. ’53 to 31 Dec. the demerit recorded against him, amounted to 136, which under the present Regn. on the subject would have required his discharge, except that not having committed any grave offenses, & on the recommendation of many of the reporting officers, & other considerations, I was enabled to remove 39, which reduced his amount below 100. Finding after Jany. that he was not more careful in his conduct, & fearing he might expect similar relief in June, I took occasion to caution him on the subject. On taking up the conduct Roll in June, I found he was again over the limit, & as I extended to some others in the same position, though not to the same extent, the privilege of reconsidering their demerit, I again reconsidered his. After removing from the record book every report for which I could find any plea, & all that were favourably endorsed by the reporting officers, & reducing his demerit by 25, it was still 21 over the prescribed limit & now stands from the 1 January to 15th June 121. I can therefore do nothing more in his behalf, nor do I know of anything entitling him to further indulgence. I can only regret that one so capable of doing well should so have neglected himself & must now suffer the penalty.

The application of Cadet Whistler is herewith returned.

I have the honour to be your Obt. Servt.Signed/ R. E. Lee Br. Col:
Supt: Mil: Acady

Superintendent’s Daily Correspondence
United States Military Academy

Superintendent’s Letter Book No. 3, pp. 120–21. Addressed “Genl. J. G. Totten Chief Engineer Washington City D.C.”