Tuesday, September 10, 2013

September 11, 1863 (Sunday): Contemplating the Fall of Richmond

View From Drewry's Bluff

September 11, 1863.
President Confederate States, Richmond, Va.:
    Mr. PRESIDENT: I replied by telegraph to your dispatch of the 10th instant.* I think if Pickett's division is retained it had better be kept entire. Its brigades are small. Should, if possible, be recruited, and it will be more efficient united. It will require some days for it to march to Richmond, and in the meantime Wise can be made ready. Longstreet should have reached Richmond last evening, and can make all necessary arrangements.
     The defenses around Richmond should now be completed as soon as possible. I did not see any connection or communication between the redoubts for the defense of Drewry's Bluff from a land attack, and the defensive line around Manchester. This is important, and also that there should be obstructions in the river connecting this intermediate line (as it was termed) on both sides of the river. Should be enemy's land forces drive us from Drewry's Bluff, they would remove the obstructions at that point, and although we might be able to hold the intermediate line, his gunboats could ascend the river and destroy Richmond. I think, too, Colonel Gorgas should commence at once to enlarge his manufacturing arsenals, &c., in the interior, so that if Richmond should fall we would not be destitute. There are only recommended as prudential measures, and such as, should the necessity for them ever arise, we will then wish had been taken.
    Scouts on the Potomac report 4 large schooners crowded with troops, passing up the river on the 8th instant. I think they must have come from south of James River. Scouts should be sent to Suffolk and elsewhere to ascertain what point have been evacuated.
    If I was a little stronger, I think I could drive Meade's army under cover of the fortifications of Washington before he gathers more re-enforcements. When he gets all his re-enforcements I may be forced back to Richmond. The blow at Rosecrans should be made promptly, and Longstreet returned.
     I am, with great respect, your obedient servant,

     R. E. LEE,

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 29, Part 2, Pages 711-712.

*See p.710.  

Lee is both confident and apprehensive in this letter to Davis.  He believes he can drive Meade back, but at the same time thinks Richmond so vulnerable as to require moving some manufacturing facilities inland so if Richmond does fall the war can be continued.  This was never accomplished to the degree envisioned by Lee, although it would be difficult to argue the war could have continued with manpower declining even if manufacturing had been scattered.  Here also is mentioned one of the curiosities of the war, which is why the Union never made adequate provision to take Drewry's Bluff by land, which would have permitted the passage of ironclads to the gates of the city. It is also clear Lee wants Longstreet's troops returned promptly, and was likely never in accord with having them go west.

No comments:

Post a Comment