Thursday, August 24, 2006

General Lee’s Letter of Recommendation

Confederate General Robert E. Lee wrote the following letter to President Davis a few weeks after the Battle of Antietam. In it, he recommends the promotions of James Longstreet and Thomas Jackson, both Major Generals in command of the right and left wings of the Army of Northern Virginia. As interesting as that is alone, especially since he does not qualify Longstreet’s recommendation, he also mentions Union General George McClellan’s dispositions, his concern for Richmond, and his belief that he cannot inflict damage to the Army of the Potomac as they currently stand.

From The War Of The Rebellion: A Compilation Of The Official Records Of The Union And Confederate Armies: Series 1, Vol. XIX, Part II, p 646

"HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF NORTHERN VIRGINIA,
Washington Run, near Winchester, Va., October 2, 1862.

His Excellency President DAVIS,

Richmond, Va.:

Mr. PRESIDENT: I received last night your letter of the 28th ultimo, and am much obliged to you for the attention given to my requests. I have stated so frequently my opinion of the necessity of improving the discipline of our armies that I need not repeat it. I hope Congress will grant every facility in their power.

In reference to commanders of corps with the rank of lieutenant-general, of which you request my opinion, I can confidently recommend Generals Longstreet and Jackson, in this army. My opinion of the merits of General Jackson has been greatly enhanced during this expedition. He is true, honest, and brave; has a single eye to the good of the service, and spares no exertion to accomplish his object. Next to these two officers, I consider General A. P. Hill the best commander with me. He fights his troops well, and takes good care of them. At present I do not think that more than two commanders of corps are necessary for this army. I need not remind you of the merits of General E. K. Smith, whom I consider one of our best officers. As regards the appointments for major-generals and brigadier-generals for this army, I have already forwarded to you the names of those whose merits I think have earned promotion. Should you conclude to promote Generals Longstreet and Jackson, major-generals in their places will be required, but I believe you have sufficient names before you to fill the vacancies. Your own knowledge of the claims and qualifications of the officers will, I feel assured, enable you to make the best selection. I do not think it necessary to call your attention to the officers immediately around Richmond, as you are fully aware of their merits.

The returns of the 30th ultimo will show an increase of our strength. If completed in time, I will send them by this mail. But our reach have been restored to them. Strange to say, our sick are very numerous, and all the care and attention I can give to the subject do not seem to diminish the number. Until the regimental officers can be made to appreciate the necessity of taking care of their men, keeping them under control, attending to their wants and comforts, and enforcing cleanliness, &c., I fear the sanitary condition of the army will not improve. It is the want of this attention and provision for comfort that causes our men so soon to break down under hardship.

I have written to you in reference to General Loring's movements, and am glad to find my suggestions to him correspond in the main with your instructions.

General McClellan's army is apparently quiescent. He himself is at Sharpsburg; his main body in that vicinity. I think he is yet unable to move, and finds difficulty in procuring provisions more than sufficient from day to day.

General Sumner is strengthening himself at Harper's Ferry. The brigades over the Potomac are being reconstructed. My great anxiety is, lest, with other troops, General McClellan may move upon Richmond. As at present there is no way in which I can endanger his safety, I have been in hopes that he would cross the river and move up the valley, where I wish to get him, but he does not seem so disposed.

I have been endeavoring to move back to Staunton everything captured at Harper's Ferry and all of valley in Winchester, together with our sick and wounded, in order that I may be unembarrassed. As soon as this is accomplished-which I regret to say from our weakness in transportation progresses slowly-unless something more advantageous offers, I shall move toward the Blue Ridge, so as to be prepared for any advance toward Richmond on the part of the enemy. I think it advisable that such troops as are north of James River, and not required for the support of the batteries at Drewry's Bluff, should be posted on the Rapidan and North Anna. They will guard the railroad, and by their presence prevent aggressions by small bodies of the enemy.

Four thousand four hundred pairs of shoes arrived yesterday, and 2,000 pairs expected today, which I hope will cover the bare feet in the army.

I am delighted to learn that the prospect of affairs in Kentucky and Louisiana is so bright. As regards Maryland, she is so tightly tied that I fear nothing but extraneous aid can relieve her. The military government of the United States has been so perfected by the recent proclamations of President Lincoln, which you have no doubt seen, and civil liberty so completely trodden under foot, that I have strong hopes that the conservative portion of that people, unless dead to the feeling of liberty, will rise and depose the party now in power.

I wish I felt that I deserved the confidence you express in me. I am only conscious of an earnest desire to advance the interests of the country and of my inability to accomplish my wishes. The brave men of this army fully deserve your thanks, and I will take pleasure in communicating them.

I am, with the highest respect and esteem your obedient servant,

R. E. LEE,

General"

Respectfully,

Randy

Please visit my primary site at www.brotherswar.com

All original material Copyright © 2006. All Rights Reserved

Note: You can find the Official Records at eHistory.com.

3 comments:

GettysBLOG said...

Lee was famous for his ability to "damn with faint praise." Perhaps he was not as trusting in Longstreet as I had first believed, although Longstreet certainly did nothing at Antietam to warrant any negative thoughts.

More's the wonder.

JUDI said...

THIS REFERENCE TO LONGSTREET CATCHES MY EYE SINCE I HAVE A NEPHEW JUST STARTING HIS FIRST MONTH AT WESTPOINT WHO IS NAMED AFTER TWO OF MY BROTHERS FAVORITE
CIVIL WAR GENERALS: FORREST LONGSTREET.....
(HE'S ON FULL SCHOLERSHIP & HIS GR-GR-UNION GRANDFATHER SIGNED HIS ENLISTMENT PAPERS WITH AN X!)
JUDI

Randy said...

Judi (ladies first) - It sounds like you have quiet the family, current and past, and much about which to be very proud.

Gettysblog - Always nice to hear from you. In a (recorded) talk I heard from Dr. Gary Gallagher of the University of Virginia, he stated that he thought General Lee had no reason to qualify the recommendation for James Longstreet because, to him, no need existed. Old Pete's strong performances at the Seven Days, 2nd Manassas, and Antietam spoke for themselves. He suggests that Lee had lost some of his previous confidence in Jackson after his poor showing at the Seven Days Battles but quickly regained as much after 2nd Manassas, Harpers Ferry, and Antietam.