Saturday, July 27, 2013

July 19, 1863 (Monday): Lee On The Defensive

July 19, 1863.
Lieutenant General JAMES LONGSTREET,
Commanding Corps:
    GENERAL: On reaching Millwood, should nothing occur to arrest your progress or render it advisable for you to cross Berry's Ferry and occupy Ashby's Gap, I request you to proceed next day to Front Royal, cross the mountain at Chester Gap, and take some position at the headquarters of the Rappahannock, in Fauquier or Rappahannock Counties, as you may select. Should you be able to subsist your army in that position by drawing flour in that region of country, and not hear that the enemy is pushing on on the route to Richmond, I desire you will halt there. Should you hear they the enemy is advancing on to Richmond, you will proceed by the most direct route, and place yourself behind the Rapidan. You had better send forward and see what flour you can obtain on your route, until you can come within the reach of the railroad. I have heard that the railroad bridge over the Rapidan has been carried away by the freshet. It was immediately ordered to be rebuilt, but it is probable that you can get nothing by railroad north of the Rapidan Station. Colonel Cole has sent an officer up to New Market and Harrisonburg to load some empty wagons in that region with flour and take them across to the Sperryville Valley. These may reach there in time to supply you, provided you cannot obtain enough elsewhere. I need not suggest to you the importance of causing every attention to be paid to your artillery and wagon horses, for, as little or no grain can be procured, it will be impossible for them to stand hard work without the utmost care and relief from all superfluous weight. I have advised General Jones and General Robertson, who are picketing on the Shenandoah, to give you all information which may be of importance to you. Should I receive information which may render it necessary, A. P. Hill will follow you on Tuesday morning. Please give instructions to keep all the mills going in your route, so as to supply flour to the other troops. I have directed a pontoon bridge to be laid at Front Royal, and you had better send an officer forward to see its progress.
    Should you determine to cross at Ashby's Gap, you must order it to you.
    I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

     R. E. LEE,

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 27, Part 3, Page 1024-1025.

Now that Lee was back across the Potomac he was still faced with challenges, foremost of which was supplying his army.  He was returning to an area which was still without much in the way of subsistence for man nor beast.  And he had to keep a sharp eye turned toward an enemy which might move directly on to Richmond and press him back and several points.  Here he is engaged in preparing for movement of Longstreet's Corp back to the Rappahannock.

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