Tuesday, May 20, 2014

April 2, 1864 (Wednesday): High Streams and Strategy

The Shenandoah River (www3.su.edu)

Orange Court-House, April 2, 1864.
President Confederate States, Richmond:
    MR. PRESIDENT: The weather of the past week has been unfavorable for observation of the enemy. The snow and swollen streams have prevented free movements of our scouts. One on North River, 19 miles from Romney, 26th March, reports that no troops had passed over the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad since about the 15th, when three regiments moved as far west as Grafton. This conflicts with the information of a dispatch from the Secretary of War received last evening. Scouts in the valley confirm the reports of the Secretary of the extreme vigilance practiced on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, which seems to be intended to conceal movements on that route. It is stated there is a double chain of pickets from the Blue Ridge to the North Mountain. The scouts north of the Rappahannock report almost daily arrival of re-enforcements to General Meade's army by railroad. They do not know whence they come, or whether they are returning convalescents, men from furlough, &c. On the 26th and 27th ultimo the trains were particularly full. A battery of artillery and 600 cavalry are stated to have marched through Centreville on the 26th for the Rappahannock. On the 30th and 31st large re-enforcements by railroad are also reported; also that a report was in circulation in Alexandria that four corps were to be added to the Army of the Potomac. The furloughed men of the Ninth Corps are ordered to repair to Annapolis, and General Longstreet reports that the Ninth Corps has left Knoxville and gone east via Cumberland Gap. This is corroborative of the statement of the assembling of Burnside's troops at Annapolis. General Couch is stated to be at Hagerstown with 5,000 or 6,000 new troops; number probably exaggerated. These various reports render it quite probable that Virginia may be the theater of Grant's campaign; that Burnside may operate from some point on the coast, and that a column may also be pushed up the Shenandoah Valley. Should this be the plan of the enemy I think troops will be drawn from their other armies, which should, be watched with a view of discovering it. I would recommend that this army be strengthened as much as practicable; that should it be ascertained before commencement of operations by General Johnston, that troops have been drawn from his front and sent to Virginia, that Longstreet's corps be ordered here, and that re-enforcements be sent to General Johnston from General Polk, Mobile and Beauregard. General Johnston will then be relatively stronger in comparison with the force opposed to him than now, and supplies of all kinds should be accumulated at Richmond or at points convenient as fast as possible.
    I am, with great respect, your obedient servant,

    R. E. LEE,

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 33, Part 1, Page 1255.

There were perils and opportunities in the shifting of troops to Grant.  Lee's army was in jeopardy if there were advances on three fronts (the Valley, the coast, and overland) but if the troops drawn by Grant to accomplish those ends were taken from Johnston's front in the west, there was a chance to relieve pressure in the east by Johnston assuming an aggressive posture (words which seem difficult to ascribe to him).  Spring was coming, and so was Grant. 

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