LT: January 10, 1865 Robert E. Lee

   

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in Lee Robert E.

No. 178.

HD QRS Army N Va.
10th Jany 1865.

His Excy Jefferson Davis
President Confed States
Richmond,

Mr. President,

I have received tonight the dispatch from Gen Hardee of the 8th inst: which you have done me the honor to forward. The dispositions made by Gen Hardee appear to me to be judicious, and as far as I can judge at this distance, the line he proposes to hold is the best. All he wants is sufficient troops. According to his statement he will have with Connors’ brigade, over 20,000 men. This is exclusive of the 5000 militia promised by Gov Magrath, and also of Gen G. W. Smith’s command. This will swell his force to 27000. Ten thousand additional troops ought to be obtained from Georgia, and I hope no effort will be spared to get them.(1) I do not know what [John B.] Hood can accomplish, or what he proposes to do, but his force should not be kept idle, and unless he can deal the enemy some important blow, his troops, or at least a portion of them should be brought east. If he adopts a defensive course, no more troops will be required there than enough to hold Thomas in check. The only aid that I can give Hardee in addition to what I have done, is to send down Butler’s division of cavalry. Part of it is there now under Young and I will send the balance should you deem it judicious to do so. But in that event I should have to send Gen. Hampton, or it might be merged in Wheeler’s cavalry and thus lost.(2) Gen Hardee informs me that he has no command for Gen R. H. Anderson, though he would like to have his assistance. An expedition has left Grant’s army which I think is probably intended to repeat the attack against Wilmington. I have not yet learned its strength, but from the number of transports that have descended James River, I should judge it was not larger than the former.(3) Still Gen Bragg may have to be reinforced, which will further weaken this army. The 8th corps and a portion of the black troops are said to form the land troops of the expedition.

I am with great respect

Your obt servt
R. E. Lee
Genl1,2

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Douglas Southall Freeman’s Notes:

(1) Hardee’s dispatch not found. Lieutenant-General W[illiam]. J. Hardee had been in command of Savannah when General [William T.] Sherman approached that city at the end of his infamous “march to the sea.” With rare skill, Hardee extricated himself and moved into South Carolina where it was hoped he would be able to reorganize and perhaps to meet Sherman. Unfortunately, Charleston had to be evacuated and Columbia was captured. Plans for active operations in the Palmetto State thereupon came to an end.

(2) See No. 179, infra.

(3) The first expedition against Fort Fisher in the winter of 1864-65 had been under the direction of General B[enjamin]. F. Butler and had not been successful. The second, under General A[lfred]. H. Terry, supported by a very strong fleet, led to the reduction of Fort Fisher (Jan. 15, 1865). The Cape Fear River, which had the last channel through which the Confederates had been able to run the blockade, was thereafter in the hands of the Federals.

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Source/Notes:

  1. Editor’s Note: Many Confederate records from 1864 were lost during Lee’s retreat from Richmond and Petersburg.  As a result, many useful primary sources from the Confederate side are simply never going to be available.  What might be less well known is that not all of Robert E. Lee’s known writings from the time of the Petersburg Campaign were put into the Official Records.  In 1915, some of Lee’s previously unpublished letters and dispatches to Jefferson Davis and the War Department were published in Lee’s Dispatches: Unpublished Letters of General Robert E. Lee, C.S.A., to Jefferson Davis and the War Department of the Confederate States of America, 1862-65. These letters and dispatches came from the private collection of Wymberley Jones De Renne of Wormsloe, Georgia.   Many of these letters and telegrams contain insight into the Siege of Petersburg, and will appear here 150 years to the day after they were written by Lee.  The numbering system used in the book will also be utilized here, but some numbers may be missing because the corresponding letter or dispatch does not pertain directly to the Siege of Petersburg.
  2. Freeman, Douglas Southall (ed.). Lee’s Dispatches: Unpublished Letters of General Robert E. Lee, C. S. A. to Jefferson Davis and the War Department of the Confederate States of America 1862-65. New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1915, pp. 314-316

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