Thursday, March 6, 2014

February 5, 1864 (Friday): Butler Proposes To Take Richmond

Fort Monroe

Fortress Monroe, February 5, 1864.
Honorable E. M. STANTON,
Secretary of War:
    SIR: I send inclosed for your perusal the information I have acquired of the enemy's forces and dispositions about Richmond. The letter commencing"Dear Sir," on the first page, is a cipher letter to me from a lady in Richmond, with whom I am in correspondence. The bearer of the letter brought me a private token, showing that he was to be trusted. There are not now in Lee's army or about Richmond 30,000 men. I can get no co- operation from Segdwick. Forty thousand men on the south side of the James would be sufficient for the object of taking and permanently holding Richmond. The roads have been good up to- to- day. You will see that the prisoners are to be sen away to Georgia. Now, or never, is the time to strike. On Sunday I shall make a dash with 6,000 men, all I have that can possibly be spared. If we win, it will pay the cost; if we fail, it will at least be an attempt to do our duty and rescue our friends. New Berne is relieved,a nd, I believe, permanently.
I have marked this "Private and immediate," so that it shall at once come into your hands.
    Respectfully, your obedient servant,

    Major- General, Commanding.

P. S. - Since writing the above Sedgwick telegraphs me as follows:

February 5, 1864- 2 p. m.
Major General B. F. BUTLER,
    A dispatch from the General- in- Chief directs such co-operation with you as I can give. I will be ready to do so on Sunday, the 7th instant, by vigorous demonstrations in my front, unless the weather should render it impossible.

     Major- General.

I have answered as follows:

Fortress Monroe, February 5, 1864.
Major General J. SEDGWICK,
Commanding, Headquarters Army of the Potomac:
Can you not make it to- morrow without regard to weather! I hope to strike the point Sunday morning at 6 o'clock.

     B. F. BUTLER,
     Major- General, Commanding.

     So we may get some co- operation. All the better. We will do our duty.

     B. F. B.

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 33, Part 1, Page 519.

Butler was full of intrigues and grand designs.  His force was too small to have much effect, but his basic plan (fixing the Army of Northern Virginia with the forces north of Richmond while marching from Fort Monroe up the Peninsula) was not entirely unsound.  Butler really seems to have believed based on his "intelligence" sources that Lee had 30,000 men in the Army of Northern Virginia.  But he was flexible.  The next day he would write Washington Lee had but 25,000.  Five thousand having, apparently vanished in the night.

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