Monday, September 30, 2013

September 23, 1863 (Friday): "No Braver Soldier In the Confederacy"

General James Deshler

Camp at Orange Court-House, September 23, 1863.
President Confederate States, Richmond, Va.:
    Mr. PRESIDENT: I have had the honor to receive your letter of the 21st instant. I was rejoiced yesterday to learn by a dispatch from the War Department of the complete victory gained by General Bragg. I hope he will be able to follow it up, to concentrate his troops and operate on the enemy's rear. I infer, from the accounts I have seen, that Buckner has not joined him. Unless he is occupying a superior force to his own, he ought at once to united with Bragg, that he may push the advantage gained. If that can be done, Longstreet can successfully move to East Tennessee, open that country, where Sam. Jones can unite with him, and thence rejoin me. No time ought now to be lost or wasted. Everything should be done that can be done at once, so that the troops may be speedily returned to this department. As far as I can judge, they will not get here too soon. The enemy is aware of Longstreet's departure. They report in their papers the day he passed through Augusta, and give the position of Ewell's and Hill's corps. General Meade is strengthening himself daily. Our last scouts report the return of the troops sent north to enforce the draft. Nine trains arrived on Monday, and three on Tuesday last, in addition to between 4,000 and 5,000 by marching.
     It was apparently expected by the enemy that we would abandon the line of the Rapidan on his approach. His advance seems to be delayed by doubts as to our strength from the maintenance of our position. His reconnoitering parties and cavalry are brisk in observation. During Monday and Tuesday he quietly massed his cavalry on his right, and moved through Madison to turn our left. Gregg came down the road to Orange Court-House by Burnett's Ford, Kilpatrick the road by Liberty Mills, and Buford the road by Barboursville leading to Gordonsville. General Stuart, with one division of cavalry guarding our left flank, opposed so obstinately the progress of these three divisions of the enemy that he brought them to a halt last night at the Rapidan. By that time, General Fitz. Lee had hastened from the right and joined him. During the night the enemy commenced to retire. General Stuart is now pursuing him on his route back to Culpeper. I presume his next attempt will be on our right, unless he determines to move his whole army around our army to Gordonsville. General Stuart showed his usual energy, promptness, and boldness in his operations yesterday; keeping with the front line of his troops, his horse was shot under him. Citizens report the enemy's loss heavy. I hope ours is not large. I have only heard the death of Colonel Rogers, of North Carolina, Scales' brigade, who was killed by a shell at Barnett's Ford, and of Lieutenant-Colonel Delony, of the cavalry, wounded.
      I am, with great respect, your obedient servant,

     R. E. LEE,

P. S.-From the details brought by the train to-day of the battle of Chickamauga, I see that Buckner had united with Bragg. I am grieved to learn the death of General Hood. I fear also, from the accounts, that General Wofford is dead; he was one of Georgia's best soldiers. I am gradually losing my best men-Jackson, Pender, Hood. There was no braver soldier in the Confederacy than Deshler. I see he is numbered among the dead.

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 29, Part 2, Pages 742-743.

Lee was anxious to see Buckner's troops join Bragg to replace Longstreet's so they might be returned east, but it was not to happen as soon as he would have liked.  Hood had been badly wounded, a leg amputated, but he was not dead.  Neither was Wofford.  The praise of Deshler is no doubt a surprise to readers who had never heard of him.  But he had fought under Lee during the Cheat Mountain Campaign, being badly wounded at Camp Alleghany.  He went west after recovering and served under Theopolis Holmes before being captured at Fort Hindman.  Deshler was exchanged, only to be killed at Chickamauga by an artillery shell which exploded just in front of him.


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