LT: March 31, 1865 Robert E. Lee

   

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in Lee Robert E.

No. 199.
[Telegram]
(Copy)

Head Qrs. Mar 31/65.

Hon. Secretary Of War,

Genl. Taylor reports enemy has commenced the siege of the Eastern defences of Mobile. Our fire, so far, is superior. Our casualties few and slight. On the 28th. the Federal fleet attempted to co-operate in the attack, but was driven off. One Monitor was sunk on the Western shore and gunboat disabled approaching the batteries.(1)

(Signed) R. E. Lee1

***

Douglas Southall Freeman’s Notes:

(1) Mobile Bay had fallen into the hands of the Federals after the naval engagement of August 5, 1864; Fort Morgan, the main defence of the Bay, surrendered on August 23, 1864. Not until January, 1865, however, were operations begun against the land fortifications, by a force that outnumbered the defenders at least four to one. On March 17, the formal advance on the land side began and on March 27 the Spanish Fort was besieged. The city made a gallant defence and did not surrender until after the Spanish fort was taken on April 8. Major-General Dabney H. Maury of Virginia, the commander, was able to bring away most of his troops and later joined Richard Taylor and N. B. Forrest. His command surrendered with theirs to Canby on May 4, 1865.

***

No. 200

[Telegram]

(Copy)

Head Qrs. Mar 31/65.

Hon. Secretary War,

Genl. Taylor, on the 30th., reports that the enemy’s column from the Tennessee River is seventy miles from Selma.(1)

(Signed) R. E. Lee

Respectfully submitted for the information of the President.

By order

J. A. Campbell

Asst. Secy. War.

   April 1/65.

[Endorsed] 

     Copy Tel.

Gen. R. E. Lee to Sec. of War.

Hd. Qrs. Mar 31. 1865.

Genl. Taylor reports movements of enemy against Mobile.

Rec[eive]d. April 1. 1865.2

***

Douglas Southall Freeman’s Notes:

(1) This was a part of Wilson’s raid on Selma, Alabama, undertaken while Maury was defending Mobile. Wilson moved in three columns, united his forces at the ford on the Black Warrior and was able to hold his own against Forrest. He besieged and captured Selma and destroyed the important arsenal and foundry located there.

***

No. 201.
[Telegram]
(Copy)

Head Qrs. Mar. 31/65.

Hon. Secretary War,

Finding this morning that the enemy was extending his left to embrace the White Oak Road, Genl. Anderson placed three Brigades in position to repel him. Before the disposition was completed, the enemy advanced and was finally met by our troops and driven back with loss to his position near the Boydton Plank Road. Our troops were then withdrawn, and were followed by the enemy, who in turn drove us back to our lines. Our loss was not large, and we captured over four hundred prisoners.3(1)

(Signed) R. E. Lee

Respectfully submitted for the information of the President.

By order

J. A. Campbell

Asst. Secy. War.

   April 1/65.

[Endorsed]

Genl. R. E. Lee
Copy Tel. to Sec. War.
Hd. Qrs. Mar 31. 1865.

Operations of enemy on our right.
Rec[eive]d. April 1. 1865.4

***

Douglas Southall Freeman’s Notes:

(1) This engagement was simultaneous with the fighting around Five Forks. While Anderson was thus engaged, Lee, with three brigades from the right, was driving Warren across Gravelly Run. The advantage, however, was lost by the disaster at Five Forks. See No. 198, supra.

With the correspondence of this date is the following, marked:

“Copy of telegram dated Petersburg 2 P.M. March 31 to Dr. Morris, from the operator there.”

Operator at Anderson’s Hd. Qrs. states we are driving the enemy rapidly. Genl. Picket who is on their flank or rear, has not yet been heard from, he promises us particulars this P.m. Will telegraph you again.

(Signed) Taylor

For his Excellency

The President.

R. G. H. Kean

Chf. of Bu. of War.

The correspondence also contains another private telegram, marked:

“Copy of telegram from operator at Petersburg to Dr. Morris dated March 31. Rec[eive]d. 2 P.M.” as follows:

Heavy firing heard this morning in the direction of yesterday’s battle. Cannonading not more audible owing to high wind blowing contrary direction. Genl. Pryor informed me about 10 o’clock that he left vicinity of Genl. Lee’s Qrs. at dark last night, that he had then captured enemy’s picket lines for purpose of making general disposition of his forces preparatory to general engagement this morning, that there was no doubt a severe battle would be fought to-day. If anything comes to hand deemed reliable, will send it immediately.

A. F. Crutchfield.

For his Excellency

The President.

R. G. H. Kean

Chf. of Bu. of War.

***

No. 202.
[Telegram]

Dated Hd. Qrs. March 31 1865.             10 O’Clock P.M.

To His Exc[ellenc]y. Presdt. Davis,

Will enquire whether Genl. Morgan(1) can be spared. Have notified Gov. Watts(2) & requested him to name another suitable person if Genl. Morgan cant go.

R. E. Lee

[Endorsed]

Genl. R. E. Lee
31 March/65.5,6

***

Douglas Southall Freeman’s Notes:

(1) Brig.-Genl. John T. Morgan of Alabama.

(2) Thos. H. Watts, former Attorney-General, C. S. A., and from December 1863, Governor of Alabama. See No. 203, infra.

***

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. 353-354
  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. 354-355
  3. SOPO Editor’s Note: Lee is here discussing the March 31, 1865 Battle of White Oak Road.
  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. 355-357
  5. 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.
  6. 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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