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 In 1915, some of Lee’s previously unpublished letters and dispatches to Jefferson Davis and the War Department were published in Lee’s Dispatches: Unpublished Letters of General Robert E. Lee, C.S.A., to Jefferson Davis and the War Department of the Confederate States of America, 1862-65.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.
HD QRS A N Va.
2nd July 1864.
His Excellency Jeffn Davis
Presdt C. States
As far as my judgment and experience enable me to decide, I am convinced that the cavalry service will be benefitted by having one officer to control its operations, and to be held responsible for its condition. Since the death of Gen Stuart,(1) I have placed each division under the charge of its division commander, and when two or more have operated together, have directed the superior officer to assume command. The disadvantage of this arrangement in my opinion is that he neither feels nor exercises that authority which is required by the responsibility of his position. It is taken up one day and laid aside the next, and is not as effective as if exercised by one who is permanently and solely responsible. You know the high opinion I entertain of Gen Hampton, and my appreciation of his character and services. In his late expedition he has displayed both energy and good conduct,(2) and although I have feared that he might not have that activity and endurance so necessary in a cavalry commander, and so eminently possessed by Gen Stuart, yet should you be unable to assign Anyone to the command of the cavalry in this army whom you deem possessed of higher qualifications, I request authority to place him in the command.(3) If this be done, it will necessitate appointing a commander for his division, and will hereafter recommend to you some person for that position.
With high respect
Your obt servt
R. E. Lee
Douglas Southall Freeman’s Notes:
(1) The famous J. E. B. Stuart (” Jeb” Stuart), major-general, P. A. C. S., mortally wounded at Yellow Tavern, Virginia, May 11, 1864.
(2) Though Lee, in his dispatch of June 21, supra, had been doubtful of Hampton’s success.
(3) Hampton was assigned to command the cavalry corps on Aug. 11, 1864 (S. 0. No. 189, A. N. Va., 1864, Par. VII, O. R., 42, 2, 1171) but was not commissioned as lieutenant-general until February, 1865. General Stuart, it will be recalled, though a “corps” commander, never held the rank of lieutenant-general.
- 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. 268-269 ↩