Friday, March 14, 2014

February 10, 1864 (Wednesday): Lee Upbraided

General Samuel Jones

Dublin, February 10, 1864.
General R. E. LEE,
Commanding, &c., Orange Court-House:
    GENERAL: I have received your letter of the 2nd instant. My chief reasons for telegraphing you on the 31st ultimo of the indications of another move from the Kanawha was that I apprehended the movement might be designed to attract attention in that direction whilst General Averell or some other leader would make another raid east of but near my department, and I thought it probable you might desire to communicate the information to your officers commanding in the Valley of Virginia.
     I had no idea of asking you to detach any portion of your army permanently to aid me, but only wished you to place a small force on the Virginia and Tennessee Railroad, to be used in case of necessity, and to be returned to you when the immediate necessity for their presence should be removed. I knew my department was beyond your command, but did not think that any reason why you should not give me a little temporary aid in protecting a very long and important line, if you could do so without endangering your own command.
     If I had heretofore declined to allow any of my troops to be beyond my department my command would now be much larger than it is. Two of the infantry regiments I sent to you temporarily, as I supposed, have never been returned to me, and all the troops I carried to East Tennessee last fall to meet a pressing and, as I supposed, temporary emergency, caused by the abandonment of that section of country, are now under Lieutenant-General Longstreet's orders.
     You seem to overestimate the success which has heretofore attended General Averell's expeditions-I mean those of his expeditions into and near my department. He has made three such expeditions. On the first he was met near White Sulphur Springs, on the 26th and 27th of August last, and whipped and driven back to his base with heavy loss.
     On the second he drove our troops from Droop Mountain on the 6th of November last, but suffered so severely that he did not venture south of Greenbrier River, and he and his officers admitted, as I am informed, the expedition was a failure. On his third expedition, in December last, he succeeded in penetrating between your command and mine, and struck the Virginia and Tennessee Railroad, without coming within the limits of this department. On that raid he damaged us very slightly, and his own command suffered severely.
     I have not observed the terror with which you seem to think Averell has inspired the troops in his front. I was with them during the late raid and did not observe in them any indications of terror; on the contrary, they exhibited, amidst great difficulties and hardships, enthusiasm and eagerness to meet the enemy, and if Averell had persevered in his attempt to return by the Sweet Springs I believe his command would have been captured or destroyed.
     You suggest that an aggressive movement on my part would, by throwing the enemy on the defensive, greatly lighten my labors. It happens that the two principal forces in my front operate from different bases, several hundred miles apart, and are wholly independent of each other. They are, besides, so far separated from me, by a country devoid of forage and subsistence, that they can easily evade me and fall back beyond my reach, if they desire to do so. Neither force is dependent upon the other for protection against any attack on it, and if I attack either one the other can penetrate to this railroad with impunity, and ride from one end to the other of it, unless troops can be sent out of other departments to prevent them. I am sure that if you knew the strength of my command, and had looked at the problem before me as earnestly as I have, to see if it admitted of a solution calculated to be productive of good to our cause, you would not advise me to make an aggressive movement at this time.
     I shall lose no opportunity which promises success of striking the enemy.
     With great respect, general, your obedient servant, 

     SAM. JONES,

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 33, Part 1, Pages 1155-1156.

At this point in the war Lee did not command all Confederate forces.  Jones may have held a lesser command (in western Virginia) but he did not have to accept Lee's suggestions without question.  In this letter he upbraids Lee, politely, and points out the geographic and military realities in his department.  Jones was especially put out with Lee over the later's failure to provide him, even temporarily, much needed reinforcements.  This was especially true since Jones had provided Lee with troops which had not been returned.

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