Thursday, June 20, 2013

June 20, 1863 (Saturday): Lee Looks West

The Union Army at Edwards Ferry (Harpers Weekly)

BERRYVILLE, June 20, 1863.

General Samuel Jones,
   Commanding, &c, Dublin, Va:
   GENERAL:  General Milroy has been driven out of Winchester and Martinsburg with a loss of about 4,000 prisoners, thirty pieces of cannon, a large wagon train, &c., and has crossed the Potomac, occupying with the rest of his troops Maryland Heights, retaining a mere picket in Harper's Ferry.
   The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad has been cut by our cavalry east of the Pont of Rocks, and General Imboden has destroyed the important bridges over the Little Cacapon, Patterson's Creek, North and South Branches of the Potomac, &c., and the tanks, depots, engines, &c., from Cacapon to Cumberland, included.
   General Hooker has abandoned the line of the Rappahannock, and fallen back toward the Potomac.
   General Ewell's corps is in Maryland, and his advanced cavalry occupies Chambersburg.
    I think the present offers to you a favorable time to threaten Western Virginia, and, if circumstances favor, you might convert the threat into a real attack.  A more favorable opportunity will probably not occur during the war, and, if you can accomplish nothing else, you may at least prevent the troops in that region from being sent to re-enforce other points.
   I would recommend, therefore, that you unite all your available forces, and strike at some vulnerable point.
   Wishing you great success, I am, general, with great respect, your obedient servant.

     R. E. LEE,

Official Records, Series I., Volume 27, Part 3, Page 906.

It is often overlooked that other theaters of the war were affected by the Gettysburg campaign.  The Union still had a sizable force in eastern Virginia with which to threaten Richmond, and the Confederates retained a small army under Jones with which communication to Western Pennsylvania and Ohio could be threatened in West Virginia.  Lee's style of management, his tendency to give orders which left commanders with flexibility in execution of his orders, is on full display here.

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