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 In 1915, some of Lee’s previously unpublished letters and dispatches to Jefferson Davis and the War Department were published in Lee’s Dispatches: Unpublished Letters of General Robert E. Lee, C.S.A., to Jefferson Davis and the War Department of the Confederate States of America, 1862-65.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.
Received at Rd. June 25, 1864.
By Telegraph from Hancock’s 25 To Genl. Hampton
7 A.M. Care Genl. Bragg.
For want of cavalry our Railroad communications south have been cut. If you cannot engage Sheridan to advantage he can be watched with a smaller force. Send to me Chambliss Brigade and any other Brigade which can be spared.(1)
R. E. Lee.
39/780 Hancocks June 25th. 64. VV.
For want of Cavalry our R. R. communications South are cut. If you cannot engage Sheridan with advantage Send me Chambliss Brig. & any other Brigades that can be spared.
R. B. 1296.
Sent to Genl Custis Lee to be forwarded to Genl. Hampton.
Recd. June 25th. 64.1
Douglas Southall Freeman’s Notes:
(1) General Hampton’s report of his operations prior to the receipt of this telegram will be found in O. R., 36, 1, 1095ff; his movements after this date are recorded in his report in O. R., 40, 1, 807ff. The operations described were really the first offensive action taken by Grant after he had brought his troops into works before Petersburg. On June 21 Grant had dispatched the 2nd and 6th corps to the south to assail General Lee’s right flank below Petersburg. This advance was promptly met and driven back by three brigades of Hill’s corps, directed by General Lee himself, who happened to be on that part of the line at the time. The attack was renewed by the Sixth Corps on June 22, with the support of Wilson’s cavalry—that troublesome body which had hung on Lee north of the James. The cavalrymen reached the railroad at Reams’ Station, nine miles south of Petersburg, and after tearing up a part of the track, moved on toward the Southside railroad. W. H. F. Lee went in pursuit, struck the cavalry on June 23 and turned it aside. At the Staunton River, the Federals met local defence troops and once more were turned. In the meantime, Hampton, who had been engaged with Sheridan at Trevilians, hurried after the Federals, as did infantry detached from the main army. Wilson was forced to leave his plunder, including more than a thousand captured slaves, and was compelled to return to the main line of the Federals.
- 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. 258-259 ↩