Saturday, February 16, 2013

February 18, 1863 (Wednesday): Longstreet Dispatched

Falling Creek (

Lieutenant General JAMES LONGSTREET,
Commanding Corps:
     GENERAL: The transfer of a portion of the Federal Army of the Potomac to Hampton Roads has rendered it necessary to move two divisions of your corps toward James River. I desire you to join them, and place them in position where their comfort will be secured and whence they can be readily moved to resist an advance upon Richmond by the enemy from his new base. It is reported that he has been largely re-enforced at Suffolk. It will, therefore, be prudent for you to change the present order for General Pickett to halt on the Chickahominy, and to let him proceed to Falling Creek, on the south side of James River, or to some better point, from which you can readily defend Petersburg, &c. Should the movement of the enemy from the Potomac render it expedient, your other divisions will be ordered to join you. I desire, therefore, you be prepared to receive them and to select encampments for their comfortable accommodation. You will be advised of their approach. I need not remind you of the importance of selecting sheltered positions, where there is plenty of wood, and which may be convenient to supplies. It is also desirable that these positions be, as far as possible, not liable to prove injurious to the agricultural interests of the country. You will require at least two battalions of your artillery and probably one of your Reserve Corps. The horses are in such a reduced state, and the country so saturated with water, that it will be almost impossible for them to drag the guns. They might be transported by railroad, by which all heavy baggage, if possible, should also be conveyed, and the battery horses be led. I wish you to inform me where I can communicate with you.
To inform yourself of the movements of the enemy in your front, and to keep me advised, I suggest that you report to the Secretary of War on your arrival in Richmond, as he will have information and possibly some orders to communicate.
     It will be well to have Lane's battery at some favorable point on the James River, to destroy the enemy's transports, if they should ascend.
     I am, with much respect, your obedient servant,

    R. E. LEE.

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 25, Part 2, Page 632.

Lee orders Longstreet to begin what will ultimately become the Suffolk Campaign, separating a major part of the First Corp from the Army of Northern Virginia.  The object, as always, is covering Petersburg.  In a very real sense, it was recognized by early in 1863 that possession of Petersburg was vital to the preservation of the Confederacy.


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