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LT: January 15, 1865 Robert E. Lee

No. 179.

HD QRS: Near Petersburg 15 Jan ’65

Mr President

I have seen Genl Hampton & concluded under the discretion given me in your letter of the 11th(1) to detach Genl Butler’s division(2) of Cav[alr]y to S[outh]. C[arolina]. for service there this winter, but it is with the understanding that it is to return to me in the spring in time for the opening of the campaign—Without this condition, I think it would be disadvantageous to send it. May I ask you to impose this condition & let me know. In the meantime I will get the men ready to start. Genl Hampton thinks he can mount the men in S. C. & will telegraph to the Genl to collect horses, which the men will buy if placed at reasonable prices. The horses here will be placed in camp in N. C. or with Major Paxton at Lancaster, & the men transported by rail[.] If the Genl can give no assurance of their procuring mounts, or if Hampton cannot make arrangements for subsistence of the horses, I will not send them. I think Hampton will be of service in mounting his men & arousing the spirit & strength of the State & otherwise do good. I will therefore send him. He will report the State of affairs on his arrival & then you can determine, whether it will be necessary to take any steps in reference to him.(3) He will take immediate measures to place Butler in the field & I desire Youngs brigade to be ordered to join Butler. I understand Young prefers Comm[andin]g his brigade to a division under Wheeler.(4)

Genl Bragg telegraphs at 8 P.m. yesterday from Sugar Loaf, that the enemy succeeded on the night of the 13th in extending a line across the Peninsula between him & Ft Fisher[.] That upon close examination he thought it too strong to attack with his inferior force. Fisher has been reinforced with sufficient veterans to make it safe & that the width of the river is such that the enemy cannot control it even with Art[iller]y of which he has as yet landed none. Bombardment of Fisher on the 14th light-weather continues fine & sea smooth— I have telegraphed in reply to concentrate his forces & endeavour to dislodge him. That he will land his cannon & besiege Fisher He gives no estimate of strength of enemy, & makes no call for reinforcements.(5)

With great respect your obt servt

R. E. Lee

His Excy Jefferson Davis
Pres: C. States— 1,2


Douglas Southall Freeman’s Notes:

(1) Not found.

(2) According to the field returns of December 31, 1864 (O. R., 42, 3, 1369), Major-General M. C. Butler’s division was at that time composed of Butler’s brigade (Col. B. H. Rutledge), Young’s brigade and, temporarily, Dearing’s brigade. Rosser’s brigade had been attached to this division (ibid., 1191). Young was detached.

(3) See O. R., 46, 2, 1074, Davis to Lee: “The condition that Butler’s division should return to you was understood by me to be part of the proposition, and will be distinctly stated. Young’s brigade (see note 4) will join the command as soon as it arrives on the field of operations.” The order was given on Jan. 19, 1865 (ibid., 110001).

(4) Brigadier-General [P.] M. B. Young and a detachment of men had been sent to Augusta, Georgia, Nov. 24, 1864 “to procure horses” (O. R., 42, 3, 1228). At the time of this dispatch, he had not returned though Butler had requested that he be ordered back (O. R., 46, 2, 1003).

(5) The correspondence relating to the siege and capture of Fort Fisher will be found in O. R., 46, 3. The Confederates were overpowered and overwhelmed by the fire directed against them from the fleet that accompanied Terry’s expedition.



  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. 316-318
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