LT: March 30, 1865 Robert E. Lee

   

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in Lee Robert E.

No. 198.
[Telegram]
(Copy)

Head Qrs. Mar. 30/65.

Hon. Secy. War,

Genl. Gordon reports that the enemy, at 11 P.M. yesterday [March 29, 1865], advanced against a part of his line defended by Brig. Genl. Lewis, but was repulsed. The line of Artillery and Mortars continued for several hours with considerable activity. No damage on our lines reported.1

The enemy still maintains his position West of Hatcher’s Run, occupying Dinwiddie C. H. with Sheridan’s Cavalry. Skirmishing was frequent along the lines to-day, but no serious attack. Part of Merritt’s Division, under Genl. Gibbs, attacked Genl. Fitz Lee twice this morning at Five Forks, but was repulsed. About 3 P.M., Fitz Lee attacked him and drove him from his position, capturing a few prisoners. The force of the enemy West of Hatcher’s Run consists of the fifth Corps, part of the second and part of the sixth, with Gregg’s and Sheridan’s Cavalry.(1)

(Signed) R. E. Lee

Resp. Submitted for the information of the President.

By order

J. A. Campbell
Asst. Secy. War.

Mar 30/65.

[Endorsed]

Genl. R. E. Lee
30 March 65.2,3

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Douglas Southall Freeman’s Notes:

(1) While Lee was making a last effort against the Federals at Fort Stedman, Grant was being strongly reinforced by Sheridan’s cavalry, back from its house-burning expedition into the Valley of Virginia. Grant’s first idea was to dispatch Sheridan to join Sherman but he had to abandon this plan because of the condition of the roads and streams. He thereupon determined to use Sheridan in the extension of his lines to Dinwiddie Court-house, confident that Lee’s weakened army could not meet him. On March 27, he sent three divisions of the 24th and 25th Corps to Hatcher’s Run and had the 2nd and 5th Corps follow them. Sheridan’s cavalry moved quickly to Dinwiddie Court-house. The movement here reported was a brilliant repulse of the Federal advance. On April 1, however, Sheridan’s cavalry and Warren’s corps overwhelmed Pickett’s division at Five Forks. The next day, the Federals broke through the line southwest of Petersburg and necessitated the evacuation upon which General Lee had decided. The retreat to Appomattox followed. For the effect of the battles of March 31-April 1 on Lee’s plans, see infra No. 204. Major-General Fitzhugh Lee’s report is perhaps the fullest for these final movements (O. R., 46, 1, 1263-64, 1298 ff.).

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Source/Notes:

  1. SOPO Editor’s Note: Lee is describing the Battle of Lewis’s Farm, fought on March 29, 1865.
  2. 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.
  3. 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. 352-353

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