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 In 1915, some of Lee’s previously unpublished letters and dispatches to Jefferson Davis and the War Department were published in Lee’s Dispatches: Unpublished Letters of General Robert E. Lee, C.S.A., to Jefferson Davis and the War Department of the Confederate States of America, 1862-65.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., July 4-6 (?) 1864](1)
I send you a Herald(2) of the 2nd Inst: brought in to-day by a deserter— It contains some items of interest—The resignation of Mr Chase(3), appointment of Mr Fessenden,(4) repeal of the gold bill &c(5)— As our papers seem to take it for granted that Burnside’s corps has gone to Washington, which if true, I do not know(6) I refer you to the letter in which it is stated that Genls Grant Meade & Butler met at his quarters on the 28th Tuesday last— We took three prisoners from his corps on the 27th— He may have gone since & it is very difficult for me to get correct information here. I think though he is on the lines—They do not appear to have any information of Earlys movements.(7)
With great esteem
Your obt servt
R. E. Lee
His Excy Jeffn Davis
Pres: C. States.1
Douglas Southall Freeman’s Notes:
(1) Without date, but evidently early in July, 1864, because of the reference to Chase’s resignation which was presented June 30, 1864.
(2) Doubtless the New York Herald, then famous for its war news.
(4) William Pitt Fessenden, chairman of the U. S. Senate Finance Committee, who succeeded Mr. Chase as Secretary of the Treasury.
(5) Cf. Hosmer, op. cit., p. 131.
(6) Burnside was still in Lee’s front and was to have a part in the next important event,—the battle of the Crater. The 6th Corps (Wright’s) was ordered to Washington July 9, 1864 (O. R., 40, 3, 106). Cf. infra, No. 153.
(7) Great pains had been taken to conceal Early’s movements as the strength of his force was limited and its ability to achieve a success was, in consequence, contingent upon its secret operation.
- 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. 272-273 ↩