Saturday, January 19, 2013

January 19, 1863 (Monday): Lee Returns

Banks Ford & Scott's Dam (

Richmond, Va.:
    Mr. PRESIDENT: I go down this morning to examine the preparations which the enemy seem to be making on the banks of the Rappahannock. I understand that a redoubt has been built on the hill overlooking the river, where their causeway has been constructed. Since my arrival, I have learned nothing more of the designs of the enemy than what had been previously received, except the inclosed notes from two of our scouts, on their right and left flank. Everything combined seems to indicate a movement, and I believe that their army, instead of being diminished by detachments to North Carolina, has been re-enforced since the battle of the 13th December. I therefore have suspended the march of the brigades ordered to North Carolina, until I can ascertained something more difficulty. If, in your opinion, the necessity there is more urgent than here, I will dispatch them immediately; they are ready for the march. I have directed the chief quartermaster of this army to take 50 wagons belonging to its transportation, and apply them exclusively to convey the wheat that may be purchased by the agents of the
Commissary Department, at Richmond, in the counties lying between the Rappahannock and Pamunkey, to the Central Railroad at Hanover Court-House. I think this a more convenient point than any on the Fredericksburg Railroad, and one from which transportation to Richmond can be more readily obtained.
I would suggest that the Quartermaster-General, in Richmond, collect all the wagons that can be spared from the posts at Gordonsville, Charlottesville, Staunton, Lynchburg, Richmond,&c., which may probably amount to 50, and apply them to the transportation of the wheat in Greene, Madison, and Culpeper Counties,&c., to the railroad, for conveyance to Richmond. Our necessities make it imperative that every exertion be made to supply the army with bread. As the Commissary Department purposes to issue sugar to the army in lieu of part of its meat ration, it has occurred to me that if its supply will warrant it, that by offering to exchange sugar for salt meat in the counties where grain is being collected, many persons might be tempted to part with bacon now retained for their own use. A few thousand pounds even, collected in this way, would be of assistance to the army.
    I have the honor to be, with great respect, your obedient servant,

    R. E. LEE,

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 21, Part 1, Page 1097.

Lee had just returned from an inspection trip to North Carolina was actively seeking to determine Burnside's intentions.  The plan originally was to detach four brigades to North Carolina, believing the Union forces aim was to move up from there to threaten the rail lines leading to Petersburg.  Neither side had confidence they understood what the other was up to.  The Confederate authorities were concerned, very concerned, about another approach to Richmond from the James and points south.  The Union planners were not convinced the Army of the Potomac was up to another battle so soon, but also believed a significant portion of Longstreet's corp was on its way to Tennessee.  But Lee here determines something is afoot on the Rappahanock line based on reports from scouts.  He was correct in this assumption, as Burnside would the next day launch what history would record as "the Mud March", a turning attempted turning movement of Lee's left by way of Banks Ford.

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