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LT: July 1, 1864 Robert E. Lee

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  In 1915, some of Lee’s previously unpublished letters and dispatches to Jefferson Davis and the War Department were published in Lee’s Dispatches: Unpublished Letters of General Robert E. Lee, C.S.A., to Jefferson Davis and the War Department of the Confederate States of America, 1862-65.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.

No. 147.

HD QRS Army N Va

1st July 1864.

His Excy JN Davis

Presdt. C. States

Mr. President,

I have the honor to communicate to you the following items of Northern news taken from the Philadelphia Inquirer of the 29th ult[imo]: which you may find interesting.

Staunton’s dispatch to Gen Dix announces Sherman’s failure on the 27th June with a loss of 2500 including one Brigadier and a number of field officers.(1) The defeat of Gregg by Gen Hampton at Nance’s shop is admitted. Gregg is said to have been severely handled. The Federal loss in killed and wounded in the affair of Gen Mahone is said to have been severe1, and they admit that 2000 prisoners were captured Gen Hunter claims to have been victorious in every fight, and only retired because his powder was exhausted.

There is no indication of any knowledge on their part of the movement of our troops in the Valley. The $300 commutation clause in the draft act has been repealed by a vote of 72 to 79 in the lower house. An amendment was made to the law giving all cities, towns, counties &c sixty days to fill up their quotas by volunteering. The President may call for any number of men to serve for one, two, or three years, and a bounty of $200 is allowed volunteers or substitutes for one year, $300 to those for two years, and $400 to those for three. If the quota be not filled in sixty days, the President may order a draft for one year, and no payment of commutation will be allowed Bounties as above are given to substitutes of drafted men, and the editor supposes to drafted men held for service also.

The executives of each state may recruit in any of the rebel states.

The bill as amended was sent back to the Senate and referred to the Military Committee. It passed the House on the 28th June.

With reference to the markets the following remarks occur. “Usually a sudden jump in gold sends up actively all prices at the Broker’s Board, but at present there is too much fear that the advance may be so startling as to render necessary quotations of greenbacks at their rate in gold, instead of the latter at its price greenbacks, which would bring the standard of operations at once down to a specie basis. Most fortunate would it be for the country and the community in general if this revolution should soon take place, for millions would be saved that will hereafter disappear in the culminating crash unless some such disposition of affairs does transpire We hope for the best, but the merchants, brokers and capitalists are inclined to take in every sail and await the revelations for the future. Gold opened at 230, an advance of 8 per cent, and thus steadily advanced to 238, which was the closing quotation, an advance of 28 p[e]r cent over the closing quotation of yesterday. The violent fluctuation cannot fail to cause apprehension for the future.”(2)

The paper contains quotations of gold in New York as high as 245. Produce of all kinds also advanced.

Very respy.

Your obt servt
R. R. Lee



Douglas Southall Freeman’s Notes:

(1) The battle of Kenesaw Mountain, one of the bloodiest engagements in Sherman’s advance on Atlanta. Joseph E. Johnston, the Confederate leader, confronted with superior forces, had withdrawn in the face of Sherman’s advance but had paused at Kenesaw Mountain, had fortified himself strongly and had invited an attack. Sherman made it in much the same fashion as Grant assaulted the works at Cold Harbor on June 3 of the same year. Sherman reported an aggregate loss of “nearly 3,000, while we inflicted comparatively little loss on the enemy, who lay behind his well-formed breastworks.” For this campaign,—one of the most brilliant withdrawals in military history,—General Johnston never received the credit he deserved. His removal came at a time when he was best in a position to turn on Sherman.

(2) Gold, it must be remembered, attained its highest premium, 286, in Northern quotations during this month.



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