Thursday, March 7, 2013

March 8, 1863 (Tuesday): Overcoming Obstacles

General Isaac R. Trimble

March 8, 1863.
    MY DEAR GENERAL: I am much obliged to you for your suggestions, presented in your letters of February and March. I know the pleasure experienced in shaping campaigns, battles, according to our wishes, and have enjoyed the ease with which obstacles to their accomplishment (in effigy) can be overcome. The movements you suggest in both letters have been at various times studied, canvassed with those who would be engaged in their execution, but no practicable solution of the difficulties to be overcome has yet been reasonably reached. The weather, roads, streams, provisions, transportation, &c., are all powerful elements in the calculation, as you know. What the future may do for us, I will still hope, but the present time is unpropitious, in my judgment. The idea of securing the provisions, wagons, guns of the enemy, is truly tempting, and the desire has haunted me since December. Personally I would run any risk for their attainment, but I cannot jeopardize this army.
     I consider it impossible to throw a trestle bridge over the Rappahannock below the Rapidan, with a view to a surprise. Our first appearance at any point would be the signal for the concentration of their army, and their superior artillery would render its accomplishment impossible without great loss of life. A bridge might be thrown over the Rapidan above Germanna Mills, and has been contemplated. Our movements might be concealed until we crossed the Rappahannock, but the distance from there to Aquia is great; no forage in the country; everything would have to be hauled. The route by Orange and Alexandria Railroad is the most feasible. The bridge is passable at Rappahannock Station. We must talk about it some time.
     I hope you are getting strong, and that you have good tidings from all your friends.

    Very truly,
    R. E. LEE,

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 25, Part 2, Page 658.

Trimble had been severely wounded at Second Bull Run.  He was an active letter writer during his recovery.  He lobbied Richmond for promotion and argued with J.E.B. Stuart over credit for the seizure of the Union supply depot at Manassas.  It appears he also offered strategic ideas to Robert E. Lee.  If there is doubt as to Lee's sense of humor, a reading of the letter will dispel them.  Lee notes he has "enjoyed the ease with obstacles....(in effigy) can be overcome. 

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