Monday, August 6, 2012

August 7, 1862 (Friday): "Make up your mind what is best."

Lee and Jackson 4 Cent Stamp (1937)

August 7, 1862-9 a. m.
Commanding Valley District:
   GENERAL: Your dispatch of yesterday is received.* I am here in consequence of the reported advance of McClellan's army. I have no idea that he will advance on Richmond now, but it may be premonitory to get a new position, reconnoiter, &c. I think it more probable to cover other movements, probably that of Burnside from Fredericksburg, of which I wrote you last night. Porter's mortar fleet is in Hampton Roads; his gunboats at City Point and Curl's Neck. I hope to determine to-day what it means, but at present it seems to me too hazardous to diminish the forces here until something more is ascertained. I therefore cannot promise to send you the re-enforcements I intended and still desire. As the expectation of re-enforcements may delay your operations and otherwise embarrass you and prevent your making an advantageous movement, you had better not calculate on them. If I can send them I will; if I cannot, and you think it proper and advantageous, act without them. Being on the spot you must determine what force to operate against. I agree with you in believing that if you advance into Fauquier the force at Fredericksburg, if it be Popes, would in all probability follow; but if it be Burnside's, and Pope in your front is strong enough to resist you, it might operate injuriously on your rear, also to the railroad, your communications, &c. If you were strong enough to bear down all opposition in your front the force at Fredericksburg might be neglected, for it would be sure to fall if that in your front was suppressed. It was to save you the abundance of hard fighting that I ventured to suggest for your consideration not to attack the enemy's strong points, but to turn his position at Warrenton, &c., so as to draw him out of them. I would rather you should have easy fighting nd heavy victories. I must now leave the matter to your reflection and good judgment. Make up your mind what is best to be done under all the circumstances which surround us, and let me hear the result at which you arrive. I will inform you if any change takes place here that bears on the subject.
    I am, very respectfully, &c.,

R. E. LEE,
General, Commanding.

*Not found.

Series I., Vol. 12, Part 3, Page 925.

Little more than a month after Jackson failed to live up to Lee's expectations during the Seven Days campaign he is being given great latitude in conducting operations against Pope.  It does not appear from this message to be a matter of Jackson being given responsibility because no suitable alternative existed.  Even after his failures in the swamps, it appears Lee retained confidence in his judgment.  History does not record a sit down meeting between Lee and Jackson after the Seven Days, but it is not unreasonable to assume there was one and Jackson satisfied whatever questions were raised regarding his lack of aggressiveness around Richmond.  No doubt his success in the Valley as an independent commander carried great weight, as Jackson was no a public figure who continued to be held in great esteem by the public.  Curl's Neck (or Curles Neck) was a great plantation on the north side of the James River just west of New Market Road and Willis Church Road.


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