Monday, January 20, 2014

January 18, 1864 (Sunday): Ewell's Return Clouded

General R. S. Ewell

HEADQUARTERS, January 18, 1864.
Lieutenant General R. S. EWELL,
Commanding, &c.:
    GENERAL: I have received your letter of the 15th, transmitting a communication to you from the Secretary of War, with your reply. I am glad to hear that you now experience no inconvenience from your injury, and hope you may continue to feel none.
    Your answer to the Secretary is such as I would expect from a true soldier and patriot as yourself. But I cannot take upon myself to decide in this matter. You are the proper person, on consultation with your medical advisers. I do not know how much ought to be attributed to long absence from the field, general debility, or the result of your injury, but I was in constant fear during the last campaign that you would sink under your duties or destroy yourself. In either event injury might have resulted. I last spring asked for your appointment provided you were able to take the field. You now know from experience what you have to undergo, and can best judge of your ability to endure it. I fear we cannot anticipate less labor than formerly.
     Wishing you every happiness, and that you may be able to serve the country to the last.  I am, very truly, yours,

     R. E. LEE,

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 33, Part 1, Pages 1095-1096.

Ewell had suffered the effects of his injury at Second Manassas for more than a year, had been struck by a ball in his wood leg at Gettysburg, and on the 15th had toppled off his horse in the snow.  He still expressed himself able to carry out his duties, but clearly Lee had doubts.  During the Overland Campaign in 1864 he would find ample reason to believe his doubts justified.  Ewell was not physically fit for field duty and his physical problems seemed to combine with a lack of decisiveness to make him particularly ineffective as a corp commander.


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