Recollections and Letters of General Robert E. Lee

 Recollections and Letters of General Robert E. Lee

Of my father's military duties at this time, Colonel Taylor, in his"Four Years with General Lee," says:

"Exercising a constant supervision over the condition of affairs ateach important point, thoroughly informed as to the resources andnecessities of the several commanders of armies in the field, as wellas of the dangers which respectively threatened them, he was enabledto give them wise counsel, to offer them valuable suggestions, andto respond to their demands for assistance and support to such extentas the limited resources of the government would permit. It was ingreat measure due to his advice and encouragement that General Magruderso stoutly and so gallantly held his lines on the Peninsula againstGeneral McClellan until troops could be sent to his relief from GeneralJohnston's army. I recollect a telegraphic despatch received byGeneral Lee from General Magruder, in which he stated that a councilof war which he had convened had unanimously determined that his armyshould retreat, in reply to which General Lee urged him to maintainhis lines, and to make as bold a front as possible, and encouragedhim with the prospect of being reinforced. No better illustration ofthe nature and importance of the duty performed by General Lee, whilein this position, can be given than the following letter--one of anumber of similar import--written by him to General Jackson, the'rough' or original draft of which is still in my possession:

"'Headquarters, Richmond, Virginia, April 29, 1862.

"'Major-General T. J. Jackson, commanding, etc., Swift Run Gap,Virginia.

"'General: I have had the honour to receive your letter of yesterday'sdate. From the reports that reach me that are entitled to credit,the force of the enemy opposite Fredericksburg is represented as toolarge to admit of any diminution whatever of our army in that vicinityat present, as it might not only invite an attack on Richmond, butjeopard the safety of the army in the Peninsula. I regret, therefore,that your request to have five thousand men sent from that army toreinforce you cannot be complied with. Can you not draw enough fromthe command of General Edward Johnson to warrant you in attackingBanks? The last return received from that army show a present forceof upward of thirty-five hundred, which, it is hoped, has sinceincreased by recruits and returned furloughs. As he does not appearto be pressed, it is suggested that a portion of his force might betemporarily removed from its present position and made available forthe movement in question. A decisive and successful blow at Banks'scolumn would be fraught with the happiest results, and I deeply regretmy inability to send you the reinforcements you ask. If, however, youthink the combined forces of Generals Ewell and Johnson, with yourown, inadequate for the move, General Ewell might, with the assistanceof General Anderson's army near Fredericksburg, strike at McDowell'sarmy between that city and Acquia, with much promise of success;provided you feel sufficiently strong alone to hold Banks in check.

"'Very truly yours,

"'R. E. Lee.'

"The reader will observe that this letter bears the date 'April 29,1862.' On May 5th or 6th, General Jackson formed a junction betweenhis own command and that of General Edward Johnson; on May 8th, hedefeated Milroy at McDowell. Soon thereafter, the command of GeneralEwell was united to that already under Jackson, and on the 25th ofthe same month Banks was defeated and put to flight. Other incidentsmight be cited to illustrate this branch of the important servicerendered at this period by General Lee. The line of earthworks aroundthe city of Richmond, and other preparations for resisting an attack,testified to the immense care and labour bestowed upon the defenseof the capital, so seriously threatened by the army of GeneralMcClellan."

On May 31st, the battle of Seven Pines was fought, and General JosephE. Johnston, commanding the Confederate Army, was severely wounded.The next day, by order of the President, General Lee took commandof the Army of Northern Virginia.