Wednesday, May 29, 2013

May 30, 1863 (Saturday): Preparing to Defend Richmond

The Defenses of Richmond (

May 30, 1863.
Honorable JAMES A. SEDDON,
Secretary of War:
    SIR: I have the honor to recommend that you expedite as much as possible the organization of the citizens of Richmond as a local force for the defense of the city. All the citizens capable of doing duty should be encouraged to take up arms for the defense of their homes.
    I also recommend that such troops as can be spared from the departments of Sough Carolina, Georgia, and Florida, and from the James to the Cape Fear Rivers, should be advanced to Virginia. The brigades ordered by me from the latter department to Virginia I have directed to await your further orders, and I request or be relieved from the control of that department.
    I think it probable, from information received, that General Hooker will endeavor to turn the left of my present position, and hold me in check, while an effort is made by the forces collected on York River, by forced marches and with the aid of their cavalry, under General Stoneman, to gain possession of Richmond. Two scouts from within the enemy's lines have brought me this report. it may be a rumor propagated to cause me to abandon my present position, but I think preparations had better be made to guard against any such attempt. But movements of the enemy on the Upper Rappahannock now in progress indicate an advance from him in that direction.
     I need not express to you the hope that the arrangements you may think proper to make will not be of a character to excite alarm or useless apprehension in the community.
     I have the honor o be, with much respect, your obedient servant,

     R. E. LEE,

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 25, Part 2, Page 834.

In a sense, the Gettysburg campaign was a race against time.  Lee did not have the luxury of making a leisurely decision to move north.  If he did not he had to anticipate being fixed in position in northern Virginia while Union cavalry and forces from Fort Monroe threatened the Confederate capital.  The success of the Union raids in penetrating almost to Richmond created a well founded fear that even if Richmond were not taken it could be threatened with destruction by raiders. 

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