Thursday, January 17, 2013

January 18, 1863 (Sunday): Longstreet to Jackson

General James Longstreet

Lieutenant General THOMAS J. JACKSON,
Commanding Second Corps:
    Your note of yesterday was received last night.* I did not express my idea clearly to you. The problem that you speak of is the one that I was trying to solve. It occurred to me that we might protect our men along your line of rifle trenches from the flank fire of the batteries that the enemy might place on your right, by good traverses for that purpose, with a good traverse on the right flank of each pit. I think the men might be perfectly secure from any fire from that direction, particularly as it seems (from my recollection of the field) that the enemy could not use the battery against our right flank after he began to cross his troops; and as our sharpshooters would not be wanted in action until he began to cross his troops, they could keep the shelter close under the traverses. I did not observe the field with this view when I was on it, and may be mistaken in my idea the enemy where he attempts to cross would also be under the shells of his battery that he might place on the right flank of your line of rifle trenches.
   General Chilton has just sent me a note in reference to the movement of the brigades. Up to the time the general started for Richmond, nothing satisfactory was received from North Carolina. Since he left I have not heard a word, except such as I pick up from the newspapers.
    I am almost convinced that the enemy will not make another efforts against our line before spring. The relative condition of the two armies would not warrant any such effort on his part. Our line is stronger now than it was when he advanced before. Even with the two brigades that I have sent off and your two gone, we shall be much stronger, in position, than we were before. He cannot be as strong in numbers, and he must be exceedingly weak in morale. I shall send a brigade to the United States Ford to-morrow. With that, strengthened by earthworks, I think that we will be secure against attack. Entertaining these views, I feel that I should have the brigades put in march to meet any demand that may for their services. I desire, therefore, that you put them in march early to-morrow morning for Hanover Junction, where they will take railroad transportation. In drawing them off, please endeavor to have it done in such a way as to avoid discovery, and, if practicable, extend your other troops so as to cover the same ground that you now do. If any other important demonstration should be made, the operation of this order will be postponed.
    I will write the general now, and tell him of the orders, and ask him to telegraph me if the services of the troops are not in demand immediately.
     Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

    Lieutenant-General, Commanding.

*Not found.

Official Records, Series I., Vol 21, Part 1, Pages 1095-1096.

Longstreet was filling in while General Lee was in North Carolina evaluating the situation there at the request of the President and North Carolina authorities.  Here he explains to Jackson a point of field engineering to Stonewall Jackson, apparently after at first having failed to communicate his point.  It is interesting to think what might have happened had Burnside's "mud march" three days hence had brought on a battle while Lee was away.  Obviously the Confederate command had no idea Burnside would attempt to take the offensive given the horrible weather conditions in the region.


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