LT: March 29, 1865 Robert E. Lee

   

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in Lee Robert E.

No. 195.

HD-QRS: Petersburg 29 Mar ’65

MR President

I have rec[eive]d the telegrams of Genl Kirby Smith of the 24th Feby & 8th March, which you did me the honour to cause to be transmitted to me— As regards the first, I fear the physical difficulties mentioned by Genl Smith, of crossing the Mississippi at this time are real, & if so they cannot be overcome. When Genl Smith does cross the Mississippi, I see no necessity of his turning over the command of the Trans-Misspi Dept to any one, & I did not understand it was your intention for him to do so, but that his jurisdiction should embrace the Eastern bank of the river. If Genl Buckner can command the Dept: while Genl Smith visits Richmond, I think he could be entrusted with its direction, under the general controul of Genl Smith, while necessary for him to be on the East bank—Although the dispatch is obscure I infer that Genl Smith is contemplating a movement into Missouri, with which his crossing the Mississippi will interfere— If he has any prospect of maintaining himself in Missouri, so as to call off the troops operating to the East of the Mississippi it will have the same effect as to bring his army here to oppose them. That would produce a beneficial result— A mere expedition into Mo: similar to those previously undertaken, will give no material benefit—I put little credence in the report from New Orleans of the expedition against Texas. It was doubtless circulated to cover the real movement against Mobile. It is the usual practice of the enemy— He could not raise as large a force as that represented & has only sufficient for one expedition.(1)

With great respect

Your obt servt
R E Lee

Genl

His Exc[ellenc]y Jefferson Davis

Pres[ident]: C[onfederate] States—Richmond1

***

Douglas Southall Freeman’s Notes:

(1) General E. Kirby Smith, who was in command of the Trans-Mississippi Department, had for some time been isolated from the rest of the Confederacy and had been unable to give any co-operation. With good judgment the Federals had maintained sufficient troops in the territory he occupied to keep Smith on the alert without giving him opportunity of demolishing the enemy and of taking the offensive in co-operation with the Confederates east of the river. His 40,000 men were thus unable to assist in the final crisis. They were, however, the last to surrender.

***

No. 196.

[Telegram]
(Copy)

Head QRS. March 29/65.

Hon. J. C. Breckenridge,
Secy. of War.
Genl. R. Taylor telegraphs from Meridian, on the 28th., that the enemy has thrown a large force ashore on Eastern side of Mobile Bay, leaving nothing on West side. That he is ready to receive any attack he may make at Mobile. Enemy’s Cavalry from Florida coast has struck Montgomery Railroad at Evergreen. Raiding expeditions are advancing from North and Northeast Alabama towards Selma and Montgomery, and another threatening prairie region from Memphis. Genl. Taylor will endeavor to destroy these detached columns before they advance far into the county or unite. He will use his force in keeping open communications with Mobile, or in reopening them, if interrupted.(1)

(Signed) R. E. Lee

[Endorsed]

Genl. R. E. Lee

Hd. Qrs. March 29. 1865.
Copy telegram to Sec. of War.

Reporting movements of Enemy about Mobile, and No. Alabama; and Genl. R. Taylor’s preparations to counteract them &c.

Rec[eive]d. Mar’ 29. 1865.2

***

Douglas Southall Freeman’s Notes:

(1) The Confederate forces in Alabama and Mississippi were badly scattered and at a disadvantage for all operations. Richard Taylor, commanding the Department of Alabama and Mississippi, had been ordered to send all the troops he could spare to join the army it was hoped could be organized in the Carolinas to contest Sherman’s advance. Nathan B. Forrest, commissioned as lieutenant-general, was given the arduous task of defending with his cavalry the few positions left to the Confederates. He was also expected to protect civilians from the ravages of deserters and bush-whackers who infested the country. Before the end of the war, Taylor, Maury and Forrest were able to unite their forces but were forced to surrender after Lee and Johnston had been compelled to lay down their arms. In the De Renne correspondence of this date appears the following:

Augusta, March 29/65.

Dr. W. S. Morris,

Merriwether reports enemy three thousand strong advancing on Montevallo, a station on the Blue Mountain line, fifty miles North of Selma. The officers on that line have been instructed what to do. Nettles is put in charge of the line and its repairs for the occasion. It is thought Genl. Forrest has sufficient force in the vicinity of Montevallo to stop them. Still fighting at Spanish Fort, without any result as yet.

(Signed) J. B. Tree

Genl. Supt.

***

No. 197.

[Telegram]

(Copy)

Head Qrs. March 29/65.

Hon. Secretary Of War.

Vaughan’s Scouts report that Stoneman with about four thousand Cavalry passed Elizabethtown on the Watauga and is going up the Watauga. He may intend to cross by Lenoir to the Yadkin, or turn down New River into Grayson and the lead mines. The Chiefs of Bureaux should give orders for safety of their property.(1)

(Signed) R. E. Lee

Respectfully submitted for the information of the President.

By order
J. A. Campbell
Asst. Secy. War.

March 29/65.

[Endorsed]
Telegram
R. E. Lee
29 March 65.3,4

***

Douglas Southall Freeman’s Notes:

(1) General George Stoneman had originally been ordered to go into South Carolina and to return to East Tennessee by way of Salisbury, but owing to a delay in his start, was instructed by General Grant to move down the Virginia and Tennessee railroad toward Lynchburg, destroying the line as he went (O. R., 46, 1, 46-47). He was driven back near Liberty and moved thence into North Carolina (ibid., 58-59).

***

Source/Notes:

  1. 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. 347-349
  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. 349-350
  3. 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.
  4. 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, p. 351

***



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