Wednesday, May 21, 2014

April 4 1864 (Friday):Vigilance! Vigilance! Vigilance!

John R. Chambliss

April 4, 1864
Brigadier General J. R. CHAMBLISS, JR.,
Commanding, &c.:
    GENERAL: I wish you to bear in mind a few considerations for your government as the commander of the outposts on the lower Rappahannock. Keep out scouts who will be competent and certain of communicating to you any movement of a large body of infantry (which, of course, will be preceded by a large force of cavalry) down the Rappahannock on the north side, with the view to a change of base of extension of line to the Aquia Railroad. Endeavor to secure accurate information and telegraph it clearly, avoiding the possibility of ambiguity, for which telegrams are noted. It is very important also to state time and place of enemy's movement. should the enemy endeavor to cross the river anywhere in your front, it is desirable to prevent it; it is possible to delay it,and to the accomplishment of these alternatives, preferably the former, devote every effort, and if needed send for Hart's battery, near Milford. Bear in mind that your telegrams may make the whole army strike tents, and night or day, rain or shine, take up the line of march. Endeavor, therefore, to secure accurate information. Should the enemy cross at Ely's or Germanna you should move at once to meet him, feel his force, endeavor to penetrate his designs, and report back by telegram, giving his progress, and watch his direction of march in doing which do not let a feigned movement deceive you. It is probable that a corresponding move will be made by a part or all of our main body, to connect your reconnaissance with which will be highly desirable. The enemy's main body will, in the event of such a move, either march directly for Fredericksburg or move up the turnpike or plank road toward Verdierville, as before. In the former case, endeavor to impede his march with artillery and dismounted men, so as to give us a chance to strike his flank. In the latter case, close up and harass his rear, as Rosser did so handsomely before. Above, all, vigilance! vigilance! vigilance!
    Very respectfully,

    J. E. B. STUART,

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 33, Part 1, Pages 1257-1258.

Stuart's advice to Chambliss reflects a change in warfare.  With the telegraph it was possible to put armies in motion on short notice from a considerable distance.  Chambliss was an 1853 West Point graduate, former military aide to the governor of Virginia, and planter.  In December he had been appointed Brigadier-General.

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