Wednesday, May 8, 2013

May 9, 1863 (Saturday): "Give them breathing time..."

General J.E.B. Stuart

HEADQUARTERS, May 9, 1863.
General STUART,
Commanding Cavalry:
     GENERAL: Your note of the 8th has been received. The boats are at Orange Court-House, or perhaps back at Gordonsville, but they are without horses. I have no objection to your taking them if you require them, but you will not be able to transport them, or, I fear, protect them.  The river would in all probability subside before you could get them in place. They are in charge of Captain Douglas, of the Engineers. Call upon him in my name if you desire them.
     As regards General W. E. Jones, I have had it in my mind to make a change in the Valley, and order him to report with his brigade to you, and place the cavalry from Western Virginia there. I am perfectly willing to transfer him to Paxton's brigade if he desires it; but if he does not, I know of no act of his to justify my doing so. Do not left your judgment be warped. Hampton has probably joined you. Get your cavalry together, and give them breathing time, so as to when you do strike, Stoneman may feel you.
       Very truly,

      R. E. LEE,

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 25, Part 2, Pages 788-789.

Stuart was asking after the Confederate pontoon bridges, which would indicate he had in mind an excursion across the Rappahannock (at least). Lee's caution to let his men rest awhile was sound.  The desire to do something of note after the ignominy of Stoneman's cavalry penetrating to the gates of Richmond must have burned bright in Stuart, but the need to rest exhausted men and horses after arduous service could not be ignored.  As for General W. E. "Grumble" Jones, Lee would return him to Stuart (it would appear from Lee's comments he knew this would not please the cavalry commander) on the 28th, exchanging him for Isaac Trimble, still recovering from wounds incurred during the 2nd Manassas campaign.

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