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LT: January 29, 1865 Robert E. Lee

No. 185.

HD-QRS: Petersburg 29 Jan[uar]y ’65

MR President

In a dispatch rec[eive]d from Genl Early to-day, he states that Major McDonald comm[andin]g the picket line on Lost river, reports from information rec[eive]d from his Scouts, “that a large portion of Thomas Army is passing over the Bal: & Ohio R.R. to Grant.” I have directed him to ascertain the truth of the report. A grand movement was announced in a N[ew]. Y[ork]. paper sometime since on the part of Thomas, (about the time that Hood was reported to have crossed the Tennessee,) which indicated his appearance in another quarter. Since that the Northern papers asserted that he was going into Winter qrs: & further operations need not be expected from him for some time. The latter report may have been intended to call attention from the former. I think it probable that in the present condition of the army of Tennessee Grant may determine to strengthen his own with a portion of Thomas, to enable him to operate against Richmond. His present force is so superior to ours, that if he is reinforced to any extent, I do not see how in our present position he can be prevented from enveloping Richmond. Such a combination is his true policy & therefore I fear it is true. It is possible however that these troops may be a part of Shermans on the way to him. I saw it stated, that parts of two corps were in Nashville preparing to join him. Reinforcements to Sherman would be almost as bad in its consequences as to Grant— A few days I presume will discover the movement[.](1)

With great respect
Your obt servt
R. E. Lee


His Exc[ellenc]y Jefferson Davis
Pres[ident]: C[onfederate]. States1,2


Douglas Southall Freeman’s Notes:

(1) These troops were Schofield’s (Twenty-Third) corps. For further references to them, see O. R., 46, 2, 1164, 1165, 1241, 1299 and 1301.



  1. 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  In 1915, some of Lee’s previously unpublished letters and dispatches to Jefferson Davis and the War Department were published in Lee’s Dispatches: Unpublished Letters of General Robert E. Lee, C.S.A., to Jefferson Davis and the War Department of the Confederate States of America, 1862-65.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.
  2. 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. 329-330
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