Monday, April 8, 2013

April 9, 1863 (Thursday): "..To Cross Into Maryland"

Lee With Staff Officers
Honorable JAMES A. SEDDON,
Secretary of War:
    SIR: I have had the honor to receive your letter of the 6th instant. I do not know that I can add anything to what I have already said on the subject of re-enforcing the Army of the West. If a division has been taken from Memphis to re-enforce Rosecrans, it diminishes the force opposed to our troops in that quarter, and may enable them to take the aggressive and to call them back. The enemy is reported to have abandoned his operations on the Tallahatchee River, which releases General Loring's force also.
    I have thought it probable that the enemy may have determined to confine for the present the operations of the Army of the Potomac and of his army south of the James to the defensive, while with a portion of his troops from the east he should operate in Kentucky or elsewhere in the west; when the season shall suspend operations on the Mississippi, to return with an increased force to the east. There is, however, nothing as yet to show this determination, except the transfer of Burnside's corps to Kentucky.
    The most natural way to re-enforce General Johnston would seem to be to transfer a portion of the troops of this department to oppose those sent west, but it is not so easy for us to change troops from one department to another as it is for the enemy, and if we rely upon that method we may be always too late.
Should General Hooker's army assume the defensive, the readiest method of relieving the pressure upon General Johnston and General Beauregard would be for this army to cross into Maryland. This cannot be done, however, in the present condition of the roads, nor unless I can obtain a certain amount of provisions and suitable transportation. But this is what I would recommend, if practicable. 
    General Longstreet is now engaged on an extended line, endeavoring to withdraw supplies from the invaded district south of James River.  He does not think that he has troops enough for the purpose, and has applied for more of his corps to be sent to him, which I have not thought advisable to do. If any of his troops are taken from him, I fear it will arrest his operations and deprive us of the benefit anticipated from increasing the supplies of the army. I must, therefore, submit your proposition to the determination of yourself and the President. If you think it will be advantageous at present to send a part of the troops operating in North Carolina to General Johnston, General Longstreet will designate such as ought to go.
    If Generals Pegram, Marshall, and Samuel Jones can by judicious operations occupy General Burnside in Kentucky, it will relieve General Johnston more than by sending their troops to him.
    I have the honor to be, your obedient servant,

    R. E. LEE,

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 25, Part 2, Pages 713-714.

Johnston had been besieging the War Department to send reenforcements from the east.  Here is Lee's formal response to Seddon.  In it you some one of the first imaginings of an offensive into the north.  However, it was predicated on the idea of Hooker remaining on the defensive.  This would not come to pass until Lee enforced inactivity upon the Union army by defeating it at Chancellorsville.  It is interesting to see Lee arguing against the advantage he enjoyed of interior lines.  However, it is probably not an unrealistic view, given the state of southern railroads.


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