Thursday, May 22, 2014

April 11, 1864 (Friday): Breckinridge to the Valley

General J. C. Breckinridge

April 11, 1864
GENERAL: Present indications render it more than probable that on the opening of the campaign by the enemy a combined effort will be made for the capture of Richmond, and that the great struggle will take place in Virginia. Troops are apparently concentrating on the Rappahannock and the waters of the Chesapeake. There is but little doubt that the Ninth Corps to which other troops are added, is now in the vicinity of Annapolis, under General Burnside. The Eleventh and Twelfth Corps have been consolidated into the Twentieth, under General Hooker, and is reported to have been ordered to General Meade. It is rumored that a part of the troops at least have reached Alexandria. All the white troops that can be spared have been ordered from the line of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad and the intrenchments around Alexandria, and brought up to the Rappahannock, their places being supplies by African-Americans. Other re-enforcements have been made to the Army of the Potomac, and I think it probable that at the proper time the siege of Charleston will be suspended and certain troops and iron-clad steamers transferred to the James River. I see it stated in the Northern papers that General W. S. Smith has been ordered to the command of the troops in the vicinity of Fortress Monroe, and that General Gillmore has been assigned a part in the projected operations. To carry out this plan points in other parts of the country must be weakened, of which we must take advantage. Longstreet has reported that the Ninth and Twenty-third Corps had left Knoxville, marching via Cumberland Gap. I do not know the present strength of the enemy in East Tennessee, but should it not exceed the combined forces of yourself and General Buckner important advantages might be obtained there. Again, should he have drawn a portion of his forces from Northwestern Virginia, or exposed any part of the long line of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, a combination with General Imboden might enable you to strike a serious blow in that direction, interrupt his communications, and draw off some of his troops from the main attack. I have though it well to call your attention to these points, as in the multitude of matters claiming your consideration in your new command they might escape you. If you can, by the commencement of active operations by the enemy, have completed the defenses guarding the main approaches of your line, and organized the local troops as garrisons, you will be able to employ your active forces where they can be most advantageously used in thwarting his general plans. When his main movement takes place we must be prepared for feigned attacks on many points, and not be misled by them. I will write to General Imboden to communicate to you anything of importance occurring on his line.
    With great respect, your obedient servant,

    R. E. LEE,

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 33, Part 1, Page 1272.

Breckinridge was now in command of Confederate forces in the Valley.  Lee here brings him up to speed on the current state of affairs.  As always, disrupting the B&O Railroad would be a primary objection of the Valley command. 

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