Monday, May 19, 2014

March 30, 1864 (Sunday): Lee Prepares for Grant

General Robert Frederick Hope

His Excellency J. DAVIS,
President Confederate States:
    MR. PRESIDENT: Since my former letter on the subject the indications that operations in Virginia will be vigorously prosecuted by the enemy are stronger than they then were. General Grant has returned from the army in the West. He is at present with the Army of the Potomac,which is being reorganized and recruited. From the reports of our scouts the impression prevails in that army that he will operate it in the coming campaign. Every train brings it recruits, and it is stated that every available regiment at the North is added to it. It is also reported that General Burnside is organizing a large army at Annapolis, and it seems probable that additional troops are being sent to the valley. It is stated that preparations are making to rebuild the railroad from Harper's Ferry to Winchester, which would indicate a reoccupation of the latter place. The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad is very closely guarded along its whole extent. No ingress or egress from their lines is permitted to citizens, as heretofore, and everything shows secrecy and preparation. Their plans are not sufficiently developed to discover them, but I think we can assume that if General Grant is to direct operations on this frontier he will concentrate a large force on one or more lines, and prudence dictates that we should make such preparations as are in our power. If an aggressive movement can be made in the West it will disconcert their plans and oblige them to conform to ours. But if it cannot, Longstreet should be held in readiness to be thrown rapidly in the valley,if necessary, to counteract any movement in that quarter, in accomplishing which I could unite with him, or he united with me, should circumstances require it, on the Rapidan. The time is also near at hand when I shall require all the troops belonging to this army. I have delayed calling for General Hoke, who, besides his own brigade, has two regiments of another of this army, under the expectation that the object of his visit to North Carolina may yet be accomplished. I have heard nothing on the subject recently,and if our papers are correct in their information, the enemy has thrown re-enforcements into that State, and the Neuse is barricaded just above New Berne. There is another brigade of this army, General R. D. Johnston's at Hanover Junction. I should like as soon as possible to get them both back.
     I am, with great respect, your most obedient servant,

     R. E. LEE,

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 33, Part 1, Pages 1244-1245 .

Lee was wary of Grant, both for the number of troops he could employ and the way he would use them.  The question of when Longstreet should return remained in the forefront of his thoughts.  Striking a blow with Longstreet in Tennessee or Kentucky was a considerable, but time was running short to make decisions.  Hoke, mentioned here, had organized successful attacks at Plymouth and New Berne and was attempting to remove Union forces from North Carolina so more of his troops could be utilized by the Army of Northern Virginia.

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