Thursday, May 22, 2014

April 9, 1864 (Wednesday): Reports From The Front

Colonel J. S. Mosby

HEADQUARTERS, April 9, 1864.
President Confederate States:
     MR. PRESIDENT: I received this evening a letter from Lieutenant-Colonel Mosby, dated Loudoun, 8th instant, who had been directed to cause the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad and the Alexandria and Orange Railroad to be closely watched. He states that a gentleman from Shepherdstown had informed him that the Eleventh Corps passed east over the former road last week, and that another, living near Fairfax Station, whom he considered reliable, reported that no re-enforcements had come up the latter road, but that every night this week large numbers of troops with artillery had passed down to Alexandria. I do not think the report of the gentleman from near Fairfax Station is worthy of as much credence as that of the scout which I sent you yesterday. That additions have been made to General Meade's army is shown by an increase of tents. Another scout from Culpeper to-day says that the troops on disembarking from the cars separate into squads and move off to the different camps, and do not march in a body, showing that they belong to many organizations. He also states that the Eleventh and Twelfth Corps are expected, and that it is rumored have already arrived in Alexandria. These may be the troops which are said to have come east on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad or they may belong tot he Ninth Corps, which is assembling at Annapolis. Troops may also have been sent to Alexandria during the nights of this week as the report from the scout I sent you yesterday was dated Monday. I see it stated in the Washington Chronicle, of the 4th instant, that over 30,000 troops are in the vicinity of Annapolis, and that General W. F. Smith has been ordered to the command of the troops around Fortress Monroe. The former is no doubt an exaggeration. The latter, if true, would indicate that operations are contemplated from that quarter, which they did not wish to trust to General Butler.
   We have to sift a variety of reports before reaching the truth and that you may compare the foregoing statements with such as may be derived from other sources is the object of this letter.
    I am, with great respect, your obedient servant,

     R. E. LEE

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 33, Part 1, Pages 1268-1269.

A neglected, but interesting, aspect of the war is the advent of intelligence work similar to that which would evolve during later wars.  Lee relied heavily on northern newspapers, reports from reliable civilians, scouts, and spies.  What was lacking was a more formal organization for evaluating reports away from the front.

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