Monday, January 21, 2013

January 22, 1863 (Thursday): Supplying the Army

View of James River & Kanawha Canal at Lexington Virginia (Library of Congress)

January 22, 1863.
Honorable JAMES A. SEDDON,
Secretary of War:
    SIR: With the view of increasing the supply of wheat in Richmond, I would suggest, if it has not already been done, that all the grain in the counties adjacent to the James River and Kanawha Canal be purchased, and conveyed by means of the canal to Richmond. I have been told that there is a large quantity of wheat in the counties of Rockbridge, Botetourt, Bedford, &c., which the owners are withholding from market, and which might be secured for the use of the army by active and energetic agents.
     I have the honor to be, with great respect, your obedient servant,

    R. E. LEE,

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 21, Part 1, Page 1110.

The James River and Kanawha Canal grew out of an idea of young George Washington as he explored the western frontier.  His aim was for a canal which would go all the way to the Ohio River and unite the country all the way to what was then its farthest reaches.  During the Civil War the canal was a supply artery which reached as far as Buchanon in western Virginia.  When Stonewall Jackson's body was returned to Lexington for burial it travelled in part by the canal.  Lee's letter is valuable in showing the ever present, but often overlooked, importance of grain to the army.


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