Monday, December 2, 2013

December 3, 1863 (Thursday): Lee Looks West

Confederate White House (

December 3, 1863.
President Confederate States, Richmond:
     Mr. PRESIDENT: I have considered with some anxiety the condition of affairs in Georgia and Tennessee. My knowledge of events has been principally derived from the public papers, and the impressions I have received may be erroneous, but there appears to me to be grounds to apprehend that the enemy may penetrate Georgia and get possession of our depots of provisions and important manufactories. I see it stated that General Bragg has been relieved from command, and that General Hardee has been relieved from command, and that General Hardee is only acting until another commander shall be assigned to that army. I know the difficulties that surround this subject, but if General Beauregard is considered suitable for the position, I think he can be replaced at Charleston by General Gilmer. More force, in my opinion, is required in Georgia, and it can only be had, so far as I know, from Mississippi, Mobile, and the Department of South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida.    The occupation of Cleveland by the enemy cuts off General Longstreet from his base, and unless he succeeds quickly in defeating General Burnside, he will have to retire either into Virginia or North Carolina. I see no reason why General Sam. Jones should not be ordered to advance to his support, or at least to divert the attention of the column that is said to be moving on Charleston, Tenn.
     I have ventured to trouble Your Excellency with these suggestions, as I know how much your attention is occupied with the general affairs of the country, especially as the session of Congress approaches. I think that every effort should be made to concentrate as large a force as possible, under the best commander, to insure the discomfiture of Grant's army. To do this and gain the great advantage that would accrue from it, the safety of points practically less important than those endangered by his army must be hazarded. Upon the defense of the country threatened by General Grant depends the safety of the points now held by us on the Atlantic, and they are in as great danger from his successful advance as by the attacks to which they are at present directly subjected.
      Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

      R. E. LEE,

Official Records, Series I., Vol 29, Part 2, Page 858-859.

An interesting memo for a number of reasons.  It underscores a little discussed fact, which is that Lee's army often drew on supply depots as far south as Atlanta.  At the time this was written any number of persons, Hardee among them, was advocating Lee take command in the West.  Lee suggests Beauregard as Bragg's replacement, when Johnston was still in theater as overall commander of the Department of the West. Lee is also ever mindful of the absence of Longstreet and his corp from the Army of Northern Virginia and points out the necessity of Longstreet either taking Knoxville or returning through western Virginia.  Conditions were not good and the always aggressive Lee advocated for a force under a strong commander to strike a blow against Grant.

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