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 In 1915, some of Lee’s previously unpublished letters and dispatches to Jefferson Davis and the War Department were published in Lee’s Dispatches: Unpublished Letters of General Robert E. Lee, C.S.A., to Jefferson Davis and the War Department of the Confederate States of America, 1862-65.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 Richmond, Va. July 8 1864.
at 7.25 P.m.
Hd. Qrs. near Petersburg.
Telegram received. The expedition is spoken of all through the army, information having been brought from Richmond. I will inform the leaders and let them judge.(1)
(Signed) R. E. Lee
Genl. R. E. Lee
Hd. Qrs. Near Petersburg
July 8 1864.
Telegram in cypher.
Recd. July 8 1864.1
Douglas Southall Freeman’s Notes:
(1) Cf. Nos. 149 and 152 supra. See also Davis to Lee, July 8, 1864. In this, Davis, avoiding specific reference to the Point Lookout expedition, notified Lee that G. W. C. Lee had not been enabled to start from Wilmington as he had hoped because of delay in getting arms. He added: “In this town I hear the expedition is spoken of on the street. Shall it proceed under change of circumstances and possibility of notice being given to the enemy? If not, stop it as you deem best” (0. R., 40, 3, 749). The letter here printed is General Lee’s response. R. E. Lee’s letters to G. W. C. Lee and J. T. Wood do not appear in the 0. R. but from other references there (loc. cit., 753, 757, 761) it appears that the publicity which had been given the proposed expedition and the delay in procuring arms prompted the President to direct its abandonment. A brief account of the part which General Early was expected to play in the movement will be found in the narrative of Col. (later General) Bradley T. Johnson, who commanded the cavalry at the time (C. M. H., 2, 125 ff.). In his well-known diary, under date of July 9, 1864, J. B. Jones reports a rumor in Richmond that the expedition against Point Lookout had succeeded (Rebel War Clerk’s Diary, 2, 246).
- 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. 278-279 ↩