The course that Lee from the outset had urged on the senior of the rivals in the Kanawha Valley was simple: Floyd was to advance if he could but was to secure his rear against attack and was not to take any chances whereby the enemy would reach the railroads.1 As Lee had approached the scene, he had been informed of the imminence of an attack and had directed Floyd to concentrate and fortify in the strongest position west of Lewisburg.2 Finding on his arrival that Wise had not united with Floyd and that the army had thus far escaped battle, his first determination was, of course, to bring all the troops together. Loring had been ordered to follow Lee to the Kanawha Valley. When he arrived with his troops the Confederates would be strong enough to combat the Federals. Until that time division might mean disaster.
So Lee reasoned. The strain of Valley Mountain, the weariness produced by his long, hurried ride, and his apprehension of a Union attack on scattered forces combined to make him write to Wise, soon after his arrival at Meadow Bluff, a letter that displays a curious touch of heroics. He said:
". . . I know nothing of the relative advantages of the points occupied by yourself and General Floyd, but as far as I can judge our united forces are not more than one-half the strength of the enemy. Together they may not be able to stand the assault. It would be the height of imprudence to submit them separately to his attack. . . . I beg, therefore, if not too late, that the troops be united, and that we conquer or die together. You have spoken p589 to me of want of consultation and concert; let that pass till the enemy is driven back, and then, as far as I can, all shall be arranged. I expect this of your magnanimity. Consult that and the interest of our cause, and all will go well."3
Lee's argument did not shake Wise's conviction that he had chosen the better of the two positions. It was his contention, moreover, that for all practical purposes he was united with Floyd. But he had high respect for Lee and apparently was not a little amused at the unwonted rhetoric of Lee's appeal. In answer, he explained at length the advantage of his ground and bade Lee, "Just say . . . where we are to unite and 'conquer or die together.' "4 Meantime, Lee or no Lee, he held on to the heights in the face of the approach of Rosecrans' army.
The situation called for action. The following day, the 22d, Lee rode forward to Sewell Mountain and made a reconnaissance. The position was naturally as strong as Wise had affirmed. It was stronger, in fact, than that of Floyd, •twelve miles to the rear. If the main attack was to be directed along the line of the James River and the Kanawha turnpike, across Sewell Mountain, then it was the course of wisdom to bring up Floyd and to fight where Wise stood. There was but one military argument on the other side: north and south of Wise ran a few inferior roads by which a vigorous enemy might flank his position, cut him off from Floyd, then wipe out both. The reports from the cavalry outposts were not detailed enough to tell whether the enemy was preparing a frontal attack or a flanking movement by these roads. In this uncertainty, Lee left Wise without making a decision or explicitly ordering him to retreat.5
On Lee's return to Floyd he found that officer more satisfied than ever that the Federals were outflanking Wise and were moving against him. Floyd, however, had no tangible evidence of this. Consequently, Lee determined to await the development of the enemy's plans. The next morning word came from Wise that the Federals were preparing to attack him and that he could not withdraw. As Floyd still insisted that the enemy was moving around Wise's position, Lee again urged Wise to unite with Floyd p590 if possible and, in any case, to send back his wagon train and prepare for a quick retreat on the first evidence of a move against Floyd.6 On the receipt of this letter, Wise, who had indulged in some heroics of his own earlier in the day, replied that the enemy in his front was not so strong as he had thought.7 His statements as to the position of the enemy were contradictory and made the situation more involved than ever.
The absence of any large force in front of Wise might mean that the Unionists were turning his flank; but, on the other hand, the lack of positive information of any Federal movement on either side of Wise's position might indicate that the whole Northern army was facing Wise on the mountain though only a part of it was visible. It was a very close question. Once more Lee had to warn Wise of the risks he was taking by remaining in his exposed position, but, at the same time, he had to assume that Wise had correctly stated the case when he said he could not draw away from the enemy without disaster. Lee concluded that the reinforcement of Wise with a part of Floyd's men might make him strong enough to beat off the enemy even if the whole force were in his front. A moderate reduction of Floyd's army might not weaken him past resistance before Loring came up, if it should develop that the Federals, after all, were operating around Wise's flank. It was dangerous, of course, to keep the forces divided, but if they must be divided they could be equalized. On September 24, therefore, Lee started for Wise's position, and had four of Floyd's regiments brought up at once to his support.8
When Lee arrived at Sewell Mountain, in no good humor, he found the enemy in sight, •a mile and a half from Wise, on the crest that Floyd had first occupied on his withdrawal from Carnifix Ferry. Whether it was Cox or Rosecrans, or both, Lee could not tell, but he had time to look around and to direct a more thorough reconnaissance. The whole of his experience in western Virginia had been a satire on everything he had learned about war, but here, in the very face of the enemy, conditions were worse than any he had yet encountered. Wise's sick troops p591 were wretched and without shelter. Many of the officers were discontented, ignorant of their duties, and bitter toward Floyd and his command.9 Disorganization and demoralization were widespread. While Lee was examining the situation he was approached by the youthful lieutenant of a command that had been on Sewell Mountain for some days. This officer calmly asked Lee to tell him who his ordnance officer was and where he could find the ordnance depot. Long-taxed patience snapped. Lee eyed him sternly. "I think it very strange, lieutenant," he said, "that an officer of this command, which has been here a week, should come to me, who am just arrived, and ask who his ordnance officer is and where to find his ammunition. This is in keeping with everything else I find here — no order, no organization, nobody knows where anything is, no one understands his duty!"10 And amid this military chaos, like a stubborn old seneschal in the last hour of a hopeless siege, General Wise strode defiantly. He had already called on those of his soldiers who would stand by him to step forward out of ranks, and he was prepared to make Sewell Mountain a second Thermopylae, regardless of all the articles of war and every paragraph of the military regulations!11 It was amusing in retrospect, of course, but it was a terrible experience for a man like Lee, who had dealt only with soldiers taught to make discipline their religion.
That night Lee bivouacked on the mountainside covered by his overcoat, for his wagon had not come up,12 and the next morning he gathered what information he could concerning the alleged operations of the enemy on the roads north and south of Sewell Mountain. All the reports he could collect were that the enemy was not moving in either direction. It was probable, then, that the main force was in front of Wise and might remain there. If that should be the case, then, obviously the thing to do was to bring up Floyd and fight on the ground Wise had chosen. But p592 to this course there was one objection, political rather than military, but serious none the less: Wise had staked his reputation on Sewell Mountain, Floyd on Meadow Bluff. To order Floyd to come to Wise, after Wise had refused to go to Floyd, would be regarded by Floyd as a distinct rebuff. Not only so, but it would affect the officers and men as well, for they were almost as much the partizans of their respective leaders as if the two veteran politicians had been pitted against each other in a formal military campaign.13 Two years later, of course, Lee would not have permitted such a consideration to weigh in his decision, but the war was young in 1861, the politicians were powerful, and Lee had been sent out to harmonize differences, not to aggravate them. What, then, should he do? As tactfully as he could, he wrote General Floyd of his conclusion that the enemy was not moving against him, though a rough roundabout road was practicable for an alert enemy and should be watched. Then he added:
"I suppose if we fall back the enemy will follow. This is a strong point if they will fight us here. The advantage is, they can get no position for their artillery, and their men I think will not advance without it. If they do not turn it, how would it do to make a stand here? In that event we shall require provisions and forage. Of the latter there is none, and the horses are suffering. This command is now in movable condition, and can retire or remain at pleasure."14
This was not an order, but it hinted very broadly at one. Would Floyd comply or would he be as stubborn as Wise had been? If Floyd acquiesced and swallowed his pride of opinion, would he come forward promptly, before the Federals attacked, or would he emulate his rival's action at the time of the advance from White Sulphur, and march only when he must? And if he came, how would it be possible to reconcile him and Wise or to get their troops to fight side by side?
The answer came most unexpectedly in a dispatch to Lee from Floyd later in the day of the 25th, while the enemy was demonstrating and Wise was at the front. This dispatch contained a p593 copy of an order for General Wise, sent under cover to Floyd. It read as follows:
War Department, C. S. A.,
Richmond, September 20, 1861.
Brig. Gen. Henry A. Wise,
Gauley River, via Lewisburg, Va.:
Sir: You are instructed to turn over all the troops heretofore immediately under your command to General Floyd, and report yourself in person to the Adjutant-General in this city with the least delay. In making the transfer to General Floyd you will include everything under your command.
By order of the President:
J. P. Benjamin,
Acting Secretary of War.15
Lee forwarded this paper to General Wise without comment. Explicit as were the terms of the order, Wise debated whether to obey or to defy the War Department as he had already defied Floyd, and carry on for the time a war of his own. In his hesitation he wrote Lee, asking his judgment. Lee replied promptly and, of course, urged Wise's immediate compliance with the instructions from Richmond. Wise thereupon drafted a "farewell" to his men, announcing his recall and stoutly affirming that when the President instructed that he be relieved, Davis could not have foreseen that the order would be received when the troops were in the face of the enemy in hourly expectation of attack. Privately, Wise is said to have affirmed that he relinquished command because Lee so advised and not because the War Department so ordered.16 A few hours afterwards he left for Richmond. In departing from Lee's immediate supervision, he did not pass out of his life. He was to serve with him in after months and was to share the ordeal of Appomattox in precisely the spirit he displayed on Sewell Mountain.
The conditions that forced President Davis to recall Wise had p594 been a military scandal for days before the chief executive acted. Wise had made no bones of his distrust of Floyd's judgment, and even in his official correspondence he had indulged in language that no superior could overlook, even on the part of a politician-general. He had actually written Lee of Floyd: "I feel, if we remain together, we will unite in more wars than one."17 Public men had written Davis warning him that the cause would suffer: "The Kanawha Valley," said one, "is too little to hold two generals. . . . Those who do the fighting and the people through the country have not such confidence in the qualifications of the generals as will cause them to flock to their standard and remain and fight with spirit."18 Said another: "Wise and Floyd are as inimical to each other as men can be, and from their course and actions, I am fully satisfied that each of them would be highly gratified to see the other annihilated."19 The President, on September 12, had authorized Lee, if he saw fit, to transfer Wise's command from Floyd and replace it with other troops.20 Lee must have thought that this would magnify the evil, for he had taken no action. Colonel Taylor was of opinion that Lee purposely abstained from attempting to pass on the equities of the controversy between Floyd and Wise. The adjutant believed that if Lee did not actually advise such a course, he knew of Mr. Davis's inclination to summon Wise to Richmond.21 Mr. Davis's growing willingness to take the political risks and to recall Wise as a military necessity was probably quickened into final action by a letter written him on September 15 by Floyd. This was restrained in language, but dwelt on the "peculiar contrariness" of Wise's "character and disposition" and left the matter in Davis's hands with the assertion that Wise's presence was "almost as injurious as if he were in the camp of the enemy with his whole command."22 After reading that, Davis had to relieve Wise or else supplant Floyd. He could not afford to let Floyd's letter remain unheeded with an offensive by the enemy immediately in prospect.
Three days of uncertainty followed Wise's departure. As the p595 enemy gave every inclination of attacking at any hour, Lee proceeded to fortify the position. Meantime, he made every preparation for retreat in case he found it impracticable to hold his ground.23 In the midst of this labor Lee had another visitation from the rain demon that had pursued him from the time he had left Staunton, two months before. A downpour on the 27th swept away the bridges, turned the roads into morasses, and cut off the troops at Sewell Mountain from Floyd's support and from all supplies. The country furnished nothing.24 "In some places," wrote Chaplain Quintard, "every trace of the road had been so completely washed away that no one would dream that any had ever been where were then gullies •eight or ten or even fifteen feet deep."25
The situation was relieved in part, but only in part, on the 29th by the arrival of the vanguard of Loring's little army of 9000. Thereafter Lee had "greatest strength," as he wrote Floyd — sufficient men to meet any attack the enemy was apt to make. He found it exceedingly difficult, however, to procure food for the men and provender for the horses, to say nothing of building up a reserve supply for an offensive. It was the story of Valley Mountain grimly repeated. Troops and horses lived only from day to day, the soldiers still dogged by sickness, the animals so thin they manifestly would break down under heavy duty. Lee looked to Floyd for supplies; Floyd did what he could to forward them, still convinced in his own mind that Meadow Bluff was the proper position for the army. If all the Confederates were gathered at that point, he argued, and the Federals were immediately in their front, the Union forces would have to negotiate the twelve wretched miles of mud through which the Southern teamsters dragged their wagons to Sewell Mountain.26
What should Lee do with his enlarged army? Obviously, in a country that presented such formidable natural barriers, it was far better to meet an attack than to deliver one. "If they would p596 attack us," one newspaper correspondent wrote, "we could whip them without, perhaps, the loss of a man; but, if we had to attack them, the thing will be different."27
So thought Lee, who for once was in agreement with the press, and so he explained when Chaplain Quintard stopped to chat with him one day when he came to bring a package from Mrs. Lee.
"Why, General," said Quintard, in the fine disregard of 1861 for the military proprieties, "there are the Federals! Why don't we attack them?"
"Ah," said Lee, gently, "it is sometimes better to wait until you are attacked."28
In case the enemy did not assume the offensive, the Confederates could do so by several routes to the rear of Rosecrans,29 provided the necessary supplies were available. On September 30 Lee wrote Floyd: "I begin to fear the enemy will not attack us. We shall therefore have to attack him."30 Almost immediately, however, the Federals showed activity, as if they might throw their regiments against Sewell Mountain at any time. From day to day Lee waited for them to do so, and waited with greater resignation, because no reserve of supplies to sustain an offensive was being accumulated at Sewell Mountain. Driving power was lacking somewhere, and the wagon trains were inadequate.
The first few days of October slipped by. The enemy still busied himself as if for an attack, and showed no signs of attempting any turning movement; the staggering teams delivered just enough food to keep the men from actual hunger and just enough forage to save the horses from starvation.
On the night of October 5‑6, it seemed as if Lee's decision to await the enemy's attack was to be rewarded. The pickets heard the creaking of wheels on the mountain and concluded that the Federals were moving up their guns, which had been most unfavorably placed. A Federal advance against Lee's strong works meant slaughter for the bluecoats and certain victory the Southerners. The artillery would mow down the Union troops; the infantry would finish off those that escaped the cannon.
p597 Lee must have awaited dawn on October 6 in expectancy almost as high as that he had cherished in the mist of September 12, when he rode out on the western ridge above Tygart's Valley in the hope of hearing Rust's opening volley. When day came there was silence. For a time it seemed ominous; then it became suspicious. Presently, when full light came over the ridges and the enemy's trenches could be seen, not a Federal soldier was visible. While Lee had waited for Rosecrans to attack, Rosecrans had reasoned in precisely the same fashion that it was better to receive assaults than to deliver them. Despairing at length of having that advantage, he had decided not to throw away his own men and had prudently chosen to shorten his line of communications for the approaching winter. During the night he had slipped away. The wheels that had been heard were those of a withdrawing wagon train, not those of advancing artillery. Lee immediately organized a pursuit, but the horses were too weak to carry the cavalry far, and the hungry, shivering infantry started without provisions and had no chance of overcoming the lead that Rosecrans's silent retreat had given him. The weather, once again, was on the side of the thickest coat. Dejected, disappointed, and empty-handed, the Confederates had to march back to the wind and cold of Sewell Mountain.31
Not unreasonably, the escape of the Federals without the loss of a man was accounted another failure for Lee, but it did not provoke any violent press criticism. "One favorable opportunity to expel the enemy has been lost," said The Examiner. "Shall we lose another? General Lee is able and accomplished. In this campaign accidents have baffled his best plans. He has been delayed by incessant rain and unfathomable mud. After two disasters to our arms in that section, he may well have been cautious lest a third should finally ruin our interests there. But excess of caution or malignant chance has wrought, by mere delay, much of the mischief that was dreaded from defeat. The general, we doubt not, now feels the necessity of a more adventurous policy, and he is quite able, we hope, of adapting his plans to the exigency. We look to him and his brave army now for movements p598 and for successes equal to those which have overthrown invasion and treason in Missouri. . . ."32
Lee took this and the earlier newspaper criticism as philosophically as he could. "I am sorry, as you say," he confided to Mrs. Lee just after Rosecrans slipped away, "that the movements of our armies cannot keep pace with the expectations of the editors of the papers. I know they can arrange things satisfactory to themselves on paper. I wish they could do so in the field. No one wishes them more success than I do, and would be happy to see them have full swing. General Floyd has three editors on his staff. I hope something will be done to please them."33
Without waiting for the approval of the arm-chair strategists, Lee drafted a new plan of advance on the very day of Rosecrans's retreat and delivered the preliminary orders for its execution. The promptness with which he fashioned this plan demonstrated a greater facility than he had thus far exhibited in co-ordinating staff and line to execute his projects. His hope now was to move Floyd quietly from Meadow Bluff to the south of the Kanawha and to have him advance to a point where he could cut the communications of the Federals on the Gauley. Lee was then to press forward to the Gauley, attack the enemy, and, with Floyd's help, drive them out of the Kanawha Valley.34 Late as the season was, the success of his plan would achieve one main purpose of the campaign in that it would free the more fertile part of western Virginia of the enemy.
Floyd duly set out with all the troops under his immediate command except Wise's Legion, which he told the Secretary of War he found "to be in such a state of insubordination and so ill-disciplined as to be for the moment unfit for military purposes."35 But no sooner were the soldiers on the march than obstacles to the execution of the strategic plan were encountered. Sickness still thinned the ranks. One North Carolina regiment was reduced to 200 effectives. The departure of Floyd's wagon p599 train so curtailed the transport that the horses had no forage and the troops on Sewell Mountain lived literally from barrel head to frying pan.36 The weather was so cold that Lee himself, who usually disregarded both heat and chill, had to propose one night that he and Taylor pool their blankets and sleep together under them.37 As for the roads, one of the editors on Floyd's staff affirmed that the like of them had never been seen. "Between the two Sewells" — Big Sewell and Little Sewell — he wrote, "they are impassable to any single team. It requires six horses to move a two-horse load, and then it is a slow and tedious business. It is almost impossible for a horse to move out of a walk from General Floyd's to General Lee's camp, and before we could take up our march yesterday, we had to cut a new road •nearly four miles long! . . . If a single wagon stalls the whole rear train has to stop until the vehicle is dragged out of the mud, for in many places, the road is so narrow that not even a horse, and sometimes not a footman, can pass a single wagon."38 Besides all this, General H. R. Jackson, on the Greenbrier, had been attacked by a considerable force on October 3, and though he had very handsomely beaten off the enemy, the movement of the Federals in that quarter might be the first step in a new offensive directed against Staunton and the Virginia Central Railroad.39 If this were so, Loring would have to return to support H. R. Jackson before Floyd could be in a position to strike at the enemy's communications.40 And, finally, if all the other difficulties were overcome, there was soon no prospect of surprise. For the newspapers had learned of Lee's plan and were printing the precise details of what was intended to be a secret move.41
On October 20, two weeks after the preliminary orders had been issued to Floyd, Lee gave up the idea of an offensive and ordered Loring back to H. R. Jackson.42 Floyd took this in very bad part, protesting that Lee remained idle when an advance would have made it almost certain that they could have captured the p600 whole of the Federal army.43 Lee, however, was fully satisfied that the Confederates could not and that the Federals would not advance during the few days of open weather that remained,44 so he completed the evacuation of Sewell Mountain and sent Wise's Legion back to Meadow Bluff,º after all. Even the sanguine Floyd began to intersperse his optimistic dispatches with essays on winter quarters.45
The campaign in the Kanawha Valley was over — in barrenness and disappointment. There remains but to review it. Lee had been right, from the outset, in reasoning that Rosecrans intended to strike for the railway. On the very day that Lee had reached Huntersville and had cautioned Floyd to be on his guard against a Federal drive on the Virginia and Tennessee Railroad, Rosecrans had announced to Scott his intention of striking for Wytheville on that line.46 In so far, then, as Lee may have so disposed the forces of Wise and Floyd as to discourage this offensive, he accomplished the negative object of his mission. The same thing may be said, indeed, of the general result of his operations on the Huntersville sector and in the country of the Kanawha: the disaffection of the people, the difficulties of the terrain, the mud, the sickness, the feebleness of the transport, the absence of accurate information of the enemy, the inexperience of the officers, the jealousy of Loring, and the rivalries of Floyd and Wise constituted such an obstacle that Lee is to be credited with some measure of success in that, with negligible losses, he kept the enemy from reaching the railroad. On the other hand, speaking again more strictly of the Kanawha operations, he did little to achieve a positive result. In his plan to meet Rosecrans's anticipated advance on September 24‑25, his reasoning was strategically sound. Again, though he may have contributed little to the drastic settlement by President Davis of the controversy between Floyd and Wise, he yielded far less to their pride and peculiarities than he had to Loring's jealousy at Huntersville. He took command with no apologies and with no exaggerated regard for the sensibilities of the two rivals. He soon stopped addressing General p601 Floyd as "commanding Kanawha Army" and wrote to him as "commanding on Meadow Bluff."47 That was progress for an amiable man.
Lee cannot fairly be criticised for waiting from September 29 to October 6 for Rosecrans to attack. But his operations after October 6, when the launching of an offensive depended on the quick accumulation of supplies, raise a doubt. There is not a line in the dispatches that discloses an energetic effort to overcome the badness of the roads or the feebleness of the transport. If he considered the prospect of an offensive hopeless, there was little point in permitting Floyd to begin his march or to undertake the second advance. If there was a chance of a successful drive, Lee displayed a willingness to wait on the wagon trains that can be given no less a name than inertia. As a strategist, he showed himself facile, but in all that pertained to the commissariat, he seems to have been well-nigh supine at this time. The rains appear to have washed away his initiative.
Whether the difficulties were so great that it was futile to attempt to overcome them is a question not easily decided on the basis of what is now known of the condition of the roads and wagon trains. After October 6 Lee himself believed he could accomplish nothing by assuming the offensive or by continuing the pursuit of Rosecrans. He told General William E. Starke, at a later time, that a battle would have been without substantial result, that the Confederates were •seventy miles from their rail base, that the roads were almost impassable, that it would have been difficult to procure two days' food, and that if he had attacked and beaten Rosecrans, he would have been compelled to retire because he could not provision his army.
"But," said Starke, "your reputation was suffering, the press was denouncing you, your own state was losing confidence in you, and the army needed a victory to add to its enthusiasm."
Lee only smiled sadly: "I could not afford to sacrifice the lives of five or six hundred of my people to silence public clamor," he said. And there he left it.48
In honor or in discredit, all this was behind Lee after October 20, and nothing was to be gained by remaining in the mountains. p602 He had been contemplating a return to Richmond from the time of Rosecrans's retreat on October 6, and he now waited only to visit the hospitals at Lewisburg and White Sulphur, in order to do what he could for the comfort of the sick.49 On October 30 he turned his horse's head eastward to the Virginia Central Railroad and left western Virginia — left it to the enemy. Failure to drive Rosecrans out had strengthened the Unionists and cowed the secessionists. Already, on October 24, a majority had voted to establish a separate state and West Virginia was lost to the Confederacy and to the Old Dominion.50 Lee had no further part in the puny, futile efforts made to recover the fringe of the revolted territory, and he saw no more of Loring or of Floyd. Loring served with "Stonewall" Jackson in the winter of 1861‑62 and subsequently fought in the far South. Circumstance and an adventurous spirit later carried him to Egypt, where, in 1875‑76, he commanded the Khedive's troops in the war with Abyssinia.51 Not long after Lee's departure General Floyd was transferred to the army of General Albert Sidney Johnston and, at the time of the disaster of February 15, 1862, was in immediate command of Fort Donelson. He later was put in charge of the Virginia State Line in southwest Virginia, but died in August, 1863.52
LEFT TO RIGHT: BRIGADIER GENERALS JOHN B. FLOYD, HENRY A. WISE, AND W. W. LORING,
WHOSE OPERATIONS IN WEST VIRGINIA IN AUGUST, 1861, GENERAL LEE WAS SENT TO CO-ORDINATE
From photographs in the Confederate Museum, Richmond.
On the afternoon of October 31, accompanied by Taylor, Lee reached the Confederate capital.53 He had been gone a little more than three months, and during that time he had suffered greatly in prestige, not only in the opinion of the fire-eaters who were perpetually preaching an offensive policy, but also, and equally, in the eyes of the general public. There was little or no new criticism in the press, but cynics began to call him "Granny Lee" and affirmed that his reputation was based on an impressive presence and an historic name rather than on ability as a field commander.54 Months later, when E. A. Pollard sketched the West Virginia operations in his First Year of the War, he contemptuously p603 declared: "The most remarkable circumstance of this campaign was, that it was conducted by a general who had never fought a battle, who had a pious horror of guerillas, and whose extreme tenderness of blood induced him to depend exclusively upon the resources of strategy to essay the achievement of victory without the cost of life."55 This expressed the prevailing opinion, which seemed justified by the poor showing Lee had made. In the atmosphere created by the victory at Manassas, public expectation had outrun achievement, and Lee, along with his campaign, was written down as one of the disappointments of the war. In retrospect, Lee regarded the whole campaign as having been a forlorn hope from the outset,56 but at the time he made no excuses, offered no apologies, and prepared no report, because any recital of what had happened would of necessity uncover Loring's delay and Rust's mistake and the foolish, well-nigh fatal quarrels between Wise and Floyd. Lee's code of honor did not countenance self-vindication at the expense of others. His sense of duty to the South made him unwilling, besides, to stir up strife where unity was essential to the successful conduct of the war. He might have been named a bureau chief or an assistant Secretary of War; he may have been shelved, as many another officer of early reputation was, at some station where the risks were less than the honors; his first campaign might have been his last, but for the faith President Davis had in him. When Lee called on the President, after his return to Richmond, he was received with the same dignified cordiality Davis had shown before the failure. There was nothing in Davis's manner to indicate that his confidence in Lee had in the least been impaired. Observing that Lee volunteered no report and was disposed to take all the blame without protest, Davis pressed Lee for the details of what had happened. Lee was loath even then to speak, and exacted a promise that nothing would be said publicly in censure of those who had failed. When Davis pledged this, Lee reviewed the campaign verbally.57 The political experience of the President gave him quick and ready understanding of Lee's difficulties with Wise and p604 Floyd. His knowledge of war made him put full valuation, or more than full valuation, on the other obstacles Lee had encountered. The interview ended with the President as convinced as ever both of the high character and of the high ability of the man at whom the people already were sneering.
9 Taylor's Four Years, 33.
10 T. C. Morton, the lieutenant in question, in 11 S. H. S. P., 519.
11 Taylor (General Lee, 34) told a charming tale how, in one of his brushes in thick woods, Wise ordered an artillerist to open fire. The officer protested that he could not see the enemy and could do no execution. "Damn the execution, sir," Wise was reported to have said, "it's the noise that we want."
12 Lee to Mrs. Lee, Sept. 26, 1861; R. E. Lee, Jr., 49.
13 Taylor's Four Years, 33.
16 O. R., 5, 163, 164, 879; O. R., 51, part 2, p313; Taylor's General Lee, 34. For a partizan defense of Wise's course, as based on better strategy than Floyd's, see Richmond Dispatch, Oct. 1, 1861, p1, cols. 5 and 6. Another review appeared in The Richmond Examiner, Sept. 30, 1861, p2, col. 6.
21 Taylor's Four Years, 34.
25 Dr. Quintard, 32.
26 Richmond Dispatch, Sept. 27, 1861, p3, col. 1; Richmond Examiner, Oct. 18, 1861, p2, col. 6, and p3, col. 1, quoting The Lynchburg Republican, whose editor, R. H. Glass, was acting as one of Floyd's staff officers. Cf. Floyd in O. R., 5, 900.
27 Richmond Examiner, Oct. 12, 1861, quoting Lynchburg Virginian.
28 Dr. Quintard, 33.
31 O. R., 5, 615; ibid., 51, part 2, p335; letter of Oct. 7, 1861, R. E. Lee, Jr., 51; Lee to Rooney Lee, Oct. 12, 1861, Jones, 383‑84; Richmond Dispatch, Oct. 7, 1861, p3, col. 1; Richmond Examiner, Oct. 10, p2, col. 5, Oct. 18, 1861, p2, col. 1.
32 Richmond Examiner, Oct. 11, 1861, p2, cols. 1‑2; cf. ibid., Oct. 11, 1861, p2, col. 5.
33 Letter of Oct. 7, 1861, as quoted in White, 124.
35 O. R., 5, 901; O. R., 51, part 2, p342; Lee to Floyd, Oct. 10, 1861, MS., regarding a change of troops, a letter courteously placed at the disposal of the writer by J. Ambler Johnston, Esq., of Richmond. Lee had put Wise's command in its entirety under Floyd on Sept. 25; O. R., 51, part 2, p326.
37 Taylor's General Lee, 31‑32.
38 Lynchburg Republican, Oct. 22, 1861.
41 Richmond Dispatch, Oct. 22, 1861, p3, col. 1, and Oct. 23, 1861, p3, col. 1, quoting The Lynchburg Virginian.
44 Richmond Examiner, Oct. 26, 1861, p2, col. 2.
48 Long, 493‑94, quoting Starke.
51 11 C. M. H., 203. See also W. W. Loring: A Confederate Soldier in Egypt.
52 3 C. M. H., 594‑95.
53 Richmond Dispatch, Nov. 1, 1861, p2, col. 2.
55 Pollard's First Year of the War, 168.
56 Lee to Mildred Lee, Nov. 15, 1861; R. E. Lee, Jr., 54‑55.
57 Jefferson Davis, quoted in R. E. Lee, Jr., 53; Jones, 168; 7 Rowland, 283.
Images with borders lead to more information.
The thicker the border, the more information. (Details here.)
Robert E. Lee
A page or image on this site is in the public domain ONLY
if its URL has a total of one *asterisk.
If the URL has two **asterisks,
the item is copyright someone else, and used by permission or fair use.
If the URL has none the item is © Bill Thayer.
See my copyright page for details and contact information.
Page updated: 26 Jan 15