Sunday, September 2, 2012

September 3, 1862 (Thursday): Another Roll of the Dice

Dranesville Tavern

Near Dranesville, September 3, 1862.
His Excellency President DAVIS,
Richmond, Va.:
    MR. PRESIDENT: The present seems to be the most propitious time since the commencement of the war of the Confederate Army to enter Maryland. The two grand armies of the United States that have been operating in Virginia, though now united, are much weakened and demoralized. Their new levies, of which I understand 60,000 men have already been posted in Washington, are not yet organized, and will take some time to prepare for the field. If it is ever desired to give material aid to Maryland and afford her an opportunity of throwing off the oppression to which she is now subject, this would seem the most favorable.
    After the enemy had disappeared from the vicinity of Fairfax Court-House, and taken the road to Alexandria, and Washington, I did not think it would be advantageous to follow him farther. I had no intention of attacking him in his fortifications, and am not prepared to invest them. If I possessed the necessary munitions, I should be unable to supply provisions for the troops. I therefore determined, while threatening the approaches to Washington, to draw the troops into Loudoun, where forage and some provisions can be obtained, menace their possession of the Shenandoah Valley, and, if found practicable to cross into Maryland. The purpose, if discovered will have the effect of carrying the enemy north of the Potomac, and, if prevented, will not result in much evil.
    The army is not properly equipped for an invasion of an enemy's territory. It lacks much of the material of war, is feeble in transportation, the animals being much reduced, and the men are poorly provided with clothes, and in thousands of instances are destitute of shoes. Still, we cannot afford to be idle, and though weaker than our opponents in men and military equipments, must endeavor to harass if we cannot destroy them. I am aware that the movement is attended with much risk, yet I do not consider success impossible, and shall endeavor to guard it from loss. As long as the army of the enemy are employed on this frontier I have no fears for the safety to Richmond, yet I earnestly recommend that advantage be taken of this period of comparative safety to place its defense, both by land and water, in the most perfect condition. A respectable, force can be collected to defend its approaches by land, and the steamer Richmond, I hope, is now ready to clear the river of hostile vessels.
    Should General Bragg find it impracticable to operate to advantage on his present frontier, his army, after leaving sufficient garrisons, could be advantageously employed in opposing the overwhelming numbers which it seems to be the intention of the enemy now to concentrate in Virginia.  I have already been told by prisoners that some of Buell's cavalry have been joined to General Pope's army, and have reason to believe that the whole of McClellan's, the larger portion of Burnside's and Cox's, and a portion of Hunter's, are united to it.
    What occasions me most concern is the fear of getting out of ammunition. I beg you will instruct the Ordnance Department to spare no pains in manufacturing a sufficient amount of the best kind, and to be particular, in preparing that for the artillery, to provide three times as much of the long-range ammunition as of that for smooth-bore or short-range guns. The points to which I desire the ammunition to be forwarded will be made known to the Department in time. If the Quartermaster's Department can furnish any shoes, it would be the greatest relief. We have entered upon September, and the nights are becoming cool.
    I have the honor to be, with high respect, your obedient servant,

   R. E. LEE,

Ball's Cross-Roads, September 3, 1862-1.40 p. m.
Major General H. W. HALLECK, General-in-Chief:
    We ought not to lose a moment in pushing forward the fresh troops to confront the enemy. In three days we should be able to renew the offensive in the direction of Little River pike, beyond Fairfax Court-House. We must strike again with fresh men while the enemy is weakened and broken down. I am ready to advance again to the front with the fresh troops now here. Those I brought in can remain for two days. Somebody ought to have the supreme command here. Let us not sit down quietly, but push forward again. I give you these suggestions because I believe them very important. I would have attacked again yesterday, but for the reasons I gave you. Whether the causes then stated can be received I don't know, but if possible they should be. The enemy is in the direction of Leesburg, with his left resting on Dranesville road, far as he can be traced by his pickets. I have just received advises from that direction. Lee himself is on the Leesburg turnpike.


Washington, September 3, 1862.
Major-General POPE, Ball's Cross-Roads:
    GENERAL: Yours by Colonel Ruggles is just received. As soon as your troops all arrive within General McClellan's command you will report in person at these headquarters.
General McClellan commands all troops in the fortifications.
A reorganization of an army for the field will be immediately made. Till then General McClellan, as senior and as commanding the defenses of Washington, must exercise general authority.
    Yours, truly,

    H. W. HALLECK,

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 19, Part 2, Page 591.

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 12, Part 3, Pages 807-808.

A tale of two armies.  Lee is planning to roll the dice yet again and move north, cognizant of the obstacles he faces but confident his opposite numbers are demoralized and unready to take the field.  And while the correspondence between Pope and Halleck underlines the point, the Confederates lack of shoes, ammunition, and supplies will become critical.  And unexpected events will transpire to add a degree of risk with the expedition Lee does not here anticipate.  Pope was no doubt anxious to continue in command, (and resentful of what he saw as McClellan's treachery) but he has already lost the confidence of the army and the administration.  Now the question is whether Halleck himself will take the field to command or restore McClellan.  Lincoln will ultimately lay the responsibility for the decision on Halleck, chosing to not put pen to paper on the subject, but it is his decision.  Two interesting side notes-Lee's desire to aid Southern sentiment in Maryland and the importance he attaches to the construction of the C.S.S. Richmond (which would be completed in November) and it's role in keeping the Union Navy down river from Richmond.


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