Robert E. Lee

Joseph G. Totten

U.S. Military Academy West Point N.Y.

8 Jany. 1855


In answer to your enquiry of the 5th relative to one of the Cadets for whom class pledges were signed some months; & who is said likely to have over 100 demerits if the report he received at the time is not removed; I have the honour to state that the pledges in question were submitted to the Dept: the case having gone out of my hands, & have not been returned.—I am therefore unable to refer to their phraseology; but my acceptation of them at the time was that all further action in the matter should be arrested, & the prosecution or trial of the Cadets for the violation of the Regns. should cease.

There was no ground for expectation at the time that the Cadets by their subsequent misconduct would subject themselves to the penalty attached to incurring over 100 demerit, nor was there any necessity for their doing so. I therefore did not understand that the pledges had a retrospective as well as prospective immunity. I am not aware that reports recd. by Cadets under similar circumstances have been removed, where the act upon which they were based was positive & certain.—Where a Cadet has been tried for an offense & declared not guilty, I have invariably removed the report.

None of the three Cadets for whose immunity their classes pledged themselves have over 100 demerit for the six months ending 15 Dec. 1854 & are therefore in no danger of being discharged on that account. One did however incur this risk, by his acts subsequent to having been relieved by his class & this immunity was claimed by some members of his class on the grounds referred to.—For the reasons given I was unable to adopt this view of the case, but there was another report against him for which I considered him more excusable & which being removed, relieved him.

The paper referred to me is returned.

I am very respectfully Your obedt. 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. 169–70. Addressed “Genl: Jos: G. Totten Chief of Engineers Washington City D.C.”