During the six weeks following his hard battles around Richmond, Lee sought to rest, refit, reinforce, and reorganize the Army of Northern Virginia — a labor in the four r's of campaign aftermath. The infantry having been entirely withdrawn from in front of McClellan, and observation of the Federals having been left to a brigade of cavalry, which was changed at intervals,1 most of the troops had only routine duties to perform, and even these were suspended on Sunday.2 From captured and imported arms, now abundant, each regiment was uniformly armed.3 Worn shoes and ragged jackets were replaced. Leisure and decent rations quickly restored the health of men removed to clean camps from the malarial swamps.
Reinforcement was more difficult. Except for Drayton's and Evans's brigades, which could be spared by the end of July from Charleston,4 no additional units could be expected. For maintaining the strength of his army, Lee had to rely on the flow of conscripts, on the return of wounded men, on the prevention of absence without leave, and on the stoppage of wasteful details.5 The signing on July 22 of a cartel for the general exchange of prisoners helped, also.6 All these measures did not suffice, however, to swell the muster-rolls of the Army of Northern Virginia to the number present for duty at the opening of the Seven Days's battles.
Reorganization was necessary to fill the places of officers slain in battle and to restore the efficiency of regiments left under the command of incompetent captains, but it was retarded by slow p257 action on recommendations for promotion7 and, except for the cavalry, was dangerously far from completion when the army again entered on active operations. The mounted arm was taken vigorously in hand. It needed centralized direction and it got it. Stuart was given command of all the horse; two brigades were created; Wade Hampton was put at the head of one of them, and Fitz Lee, the General's nephew, was assigned the other, though not without some grumbling at the rapid advancement of the Lees.8 The reorganization of Jackson's cavalry was deferred.9
Bickering interfered with the work of welding semi-independent divisions into an efficient army. General Toombs felt that D. H. Hill had impugned his courage and challenged him to a duel;10 Colonel H. L. Benning argued with so much vehemence against the constitutionality of the conscript act that he was in danger of arrest.11 Longstreet became piqued at the praise of A. P. Hill in The Richmond Examiner and had his adjutant general rejoin with a letter in The Richmond Whig that led Hill to refuse to have either personal or military dealings with that officer, whereupon Longstreet put Hill under arrest and gave command of the division for the time to Hill's senior brigadier, Joseph R. Anderson.12 Lee himself was not exempt from attack, despite the praise heaped upon him by the public. A cabal that was alleged to be seeking to "undermine the confidence of the army and of the country in his capacity" was denounced in the press.13 As usual, Lee made no reply, but the multitude of vexations that were daily encountered drew from him a characteristic confession to his wife. Said he: "In the prospect before me I cannot see a single ray of pleasure during this war; but as long as I can perform any service to the country, I am content."14
While Lee was meeting these conditions as best he could, the Federals were not idle. Three hundred thousand volunteers had been called for on July 1, with the promise of a bounty of one p258 hundred dollars for each man.15 Defeat stiffened the determination of the North. By July 10, besides the main force under McClellan at Harrison's Landing, Lee had to watch three Federal armies. The shattered divisions of McDowell, Banks, and Frémont had been organized into a new "Army of Virginia." Frémont had retired and had been succeeded by Brigadier General Franz Sigel.16 All these troops had been placed under Major General John Pope, who, in the West, had won some reputation for activity. Lee did not know whether these forces had been consolidated or where they were located, but he assumed them to be in the general vicinity of Manassas.17 A second additional column was known to be around Fredericksburg. Like the Army of Virginia, its strength had not been reported, but Lee's earlier reports had indicated that it was large.18 The third force, likewise of undetermined numbers, had come from Burnside in North Carolina and was on transports off Fortress Monroe.19
These troops were disposed strategically. If Burnside's men joined McClellan, they would presumably make good, or almost make good, his losses during the Seven Days. If they moved to Fredericksburg, they might be strong enough to duplicate the movement projected for McDowell in the spring and advance southward from that point to Richmond or, at the least, trouble communications between Richmond and western Virginia, via the Virginia Central Railroad. And if, finally, the force from Burnside or the Fredericksburg garrison, or both of them, should reinforce Pope, that officer would be dangerously strong and could cut the Virginia Central Railroad, march eastward toward Richmond, or force Lee to make so large a detachment to meet him as to put Richmond in danger of capture by McClellan. It was, in some respects, potentially as dangerous a state of affairs as that which had confronted Lee when he took command. He had then been taxed to bring together all available troops in front of Richmond to meet a concentration there by the enemy. Now, with a superior force still immediately in his front, he had to decide this difficult question: should he continue his concentration, p259 so as to checkmate McClellan, or should he disperse his forces in order to protect his communications and to prevent a still more dangerous reinforcement of his principal adversary?
Lee did not meet this situation with any large strategic plan, quickly conceived and steadfastly executed. His initial planning was not a matter of prescience or even of precision. Knowing comparatively little of the intentions of his opponents, he had to shape his plan, step by step, as his information accumulated.20 The starting point was the fact that the battles for Richmond had given to the retention of that city a moral value out of all proportion to its importance as a railroad junction or even as a munitions centre. The occupation of the capital, despite all attacks to capture it, became so much a matter of prestige that it formed the basis of Lee's strategy during the months that were to follow, without any formal declaration of military policy to that effect. As early as July, 1862, the chief Virginia city was symbolically the Verdun of the South.
If Richmond was to be held, then, of course, it must be fortified further, especially on the front where it would be most exposed to combined land-and‑water attacks. To this work Lee now gave himself as assiduously as he had to the construction of the light defensive line early in June. At Drewry's Bluff, on the north side of the River opposite that point, and across the roads paralleling the James, heavy works rose steadily. Ere long, these were entrusted to Lieutenant Colonel J. F. Gilmer, a most capable engineer.21 The faithful creator of the first defenses, Colonel W. H. Stevens, was sent to Petersburg to prepare that city for possible investment.22
p260 Improvement of the Richmond fortifications, while of high importance in protecting the city against McClellan, would of course make it less difficult for Lee to detach troops in case the forces in northern Virginia seriously threatened an advance. Jackson, who was now rested and full of ardor, was for an immediate offensive that would sweep past Pope's army and carry the war into the enemy's country. Lee listened patiently, but as he had known Pope casually in the old army and had no very high estimate of his abilities,23 he was for some days less alarmed than was "Stonewall," and would not commit himself on Jackson's proposal.24 With McClellan still dangerously close to Richmond and at the head of an army larger than his own, Lee was averse to weakening himself, at least until he knew what Pope would attempt to do.
Jackson was not satisfied. At the first opportunity, he sought out Colonel A. R. Boteler, who was a member of Congress as well as an acting member of his staff.
"Do you know that we are losing valuable time here?" Jackson began.
"How so?" Boteler replied.
"Why, by repeating the blunder we made after the battle of Manassas, in allowing the enemy leisure to recover from his defeat and ourselves to suffer by inaction. Yes" — and he became excited as he went on — "we are wasting precious time and energies in this malarious region that can be much better employed elsewhere and I want to talk to you about it."
He then explained that as McClellan was beaten, he would have to reorganize and reinforce his army before it would be in fighting trim, and that this assured the safety of Richmond. Advantage should be taken of this to invade the North. He wanted Boteler to go forthwith to see the President, to urge this course on him, and to say for Jackson that he was not making this proposal in any spirit of self-seeking, but, on the contrary, would serve under any one Davis designated.
"What is the use of my going to Mr. Davis," Boteler asked, "as he'll probably refer me again to General Lee? So why don't you yourself speak to General Lee upon the subject?"
p261 "I have already done so," Jackson said.
"Well, what does he say?"
"He says nothing." And then he added carefully, "Don't think I complain of his silence; he doubtless has good reason for it."
"Then," Boteler inquired, half-curiously, "you don't think that General Lee is slow in making up his mind?"
"Slow!" exclaimed Jackson with much energy. "By no means, Colonel! On the contrary his perception is as quick and unerring as his judgment is infallible. But with the vast responsibilities now resting on him, he is perfectly right in withholding a hasty expression of his opinions and purposes."
He paused for a moment and then he said: "So great is my confidence in General Lee that I am willing to follow him blindfolded. But I fear he is unable to give me a definite answer now because of influences at Richmond, where, perhaps, the matter has been mentioned by him and may be under consideration. I, therefore, want you to see the President and urge the importance of prompt action."25
Boteler duly called on Mr. Davis and stated Jackson's views. He subsequently thought that it was on this representation that Jackson was moved,26 but he was mistaken in this. The first shift in the army was brought about by the receipt of news on July 12 that the Federals had occupied Culpeper Courthouse that morning.27 Culpeper was on the Orange and Alexandria, now the Southern Railway. It is only •thirty-five miles north of Gordonsville. And Gordonsville lay on an exposed bend of the Virginia Central Railroad,28 the only direct line of rail communication between Richmond and the Shenandoah Valley. A serious threat in that quarter was an immediate menace to an indispensable line and had to be met at any cost. Desirable as it was to await the development of the enemy's plan, Lee did not feel that he could delay in defending the line of the Virginia Central, now that Pope was moving southward. On the 13th, therefore, he ordered Jackson with his own and Ewell's division, to proceed by train to Louisa, p262 and, if Pope had not anticipated him, to proceed to Gordonsville.29 Part of Jackson's cavalry was sent to Hanover Junction.30
This was the first time Lee had been called upon to apply in Virginia a principle he doubtless had learned in South Carolina — that "it is easier to defend a railroad by massing troops at salient and commanding points to repress the attack of the enemy and strike him if he advances, than to extend the force along the whole line."31 He did not scatter infantry along the railroad, which was perpendicular to the line of Pope's advance and consequently exposed for a long distance. Instead, he kept Jackson's troops together to strike the invader as he approached the railway. p263 Against cavalry raids he had to guard as best he could with his own horse, but he kept this equally concentrated, except for outposts and videttes. When Jackson was forced to withdraw his cavalry from Hanover Junction, Lee replaced it by part of Stuart's command, though not in time to prevent a dash by Federal cavalry to Beaver Dam Station on the Virginia Central Railroad on July 20.32 The raid yielded the Federals nothing of consequence except the person of a young cavalry captain, who was taken prisoner while waiting for a train.33 He was to prove a very costly capture.
Arrived at Gordonsville, Jackson could learn little of his adversary's strength and movements, but thought the Federals were withdrawing from Fredericksburg to concentrate against him. As Lee was not positive as to the size of the force at Fredericksburg, he directed Stuart to scout in that direction and to find out what was afoot.34
While Stuart was undertaking this, Pope brought his new Army of Virginia before the Confederate commander in a novel fashion by the issuance of an extraordinary series of orders. On taking command, he assured his troops that he was accustomed to see only the backs of his enemies, and he admonished his soldiers to dismiss from their minds "certain phrases," which, said he, "I am sorry to find so much in vogue amongst you. I hear constantly of 'taking strong positions and holding them,' of 'lines of retreat' and 'bases of supplies.' Let us discard such ideas. . . . Let us study the probable lines of retreat of our enemies, and leave our own to take care of themselves."35 This bombast aroused only ridicule — as much in the North as in the South. His later orders were more serious. One of them directed his army to live off the country in which it operated and to reimburse only loyal citizens.36 Another order put on each community the expense of making good the damage done by guerrillas and threatened the instant destruction of any house from which any soldier was shot.37 A third mandate provided for the arrest of all male non-combatants within the Federal lines and for the expulsion of those p264 who refused to take the oath and to give security for their good behavior. Any person who returned after being sent away, as well as any person within the lines who communicated with the enemy, was liable to the penalty of death.38 A mother who wrote her son a letter could be treated as a spy under this order. One of Pope's subordinates, Brigadier General A. von Steinwehr, outdid his chief in arresting five citizens of the town of Luray, with the announcement that whenever a guerrilla killed a soldier of his, one of these hostages would be shot unless the guerrilla was forthwith delivered to the Federal commander.39
Lee had felt that McClellan had been brutal in destroying the medicine needed for the sick and wounded left behind at Savage Station,40 and now his wrath rose hotly at these orders of Steinwehr and Pope. To all strategic considerations for driving Pope back from the vicinity of the Virginia Central Railroad, there was added in Lee's mind a strong desire to relieve the civil population of an alleged form of mistreatment previously unknown in the war. Lee twice wrote that Pope must be "suppressed" — a word that seems to have reflected his state of mind with precision.41 In one of his dispatches he referred to him as the "miscreant Pope,"42 and in a private letter, when he mentioned his nephew Louis Marshall, who had sided with the North, he remarked, "I could forgive [his] fighting against us, but not his joining Pope."43 For no other adversary in the entire war did Lee have anything that approached the contempt and personal dislike he had for Pope. He was in entire accord with the orders he received from the President to notify the Federal administration that the Confederacy would be compelled to retaliate if the offensive orders were enforced.44
p265 Thus far Lee had developed only two of the fundamentals of a new campaign, namely, to strengthen the Richmond fortifications so as to make a detachment of force possible, and, secondly, to guard his communications with the Valley. Pope was quiet for some days after reaching Culpeper, but Burnside's troops remained aboard transports off Old Point, as if preparing for another voyage, and on July 22 the Army of the Potomac began to show signs of activity.45 Lee was not immediately alarmed by these stirrings in the camps of McClellan, for experience had taught him the Federal commander was slow to complete preparations for an offensive. Anticipating that he would have a period of grace before McClellan felt himself ready to strike, Lee began to study the third step in the development of a new plan: he began to ask himself whether he could send enough men to Jackson to defeat Pope, and then return them to Richmond in time to meet McClellan, precisely as he had hurried Whiting to Jackson early in June.46
Such a move manifestly depended on being able to meet three conditions: First, Pope must be near enough to permit Jackson to reach him without detaining too long the additional troops dispatched from Richmond;47 second, McClellan must not meantime receive sufficient reinforcements to undertake a speedy offensive; and, third, enough troops must be left at Richmond to protect the city from capture in case Lee underestimated the time McClellan would require for a resumption of the offensive. This last was a serious matter. After Jackson's departure, Lee had only 69,732 men present for duty, including Holmes's former command that had been returned to the south side of the James.48 He had to assume that his adversary was far stronger than that.
From July 23 to July 27, Lee wrestled over the logistics of this aspect of his plan. McClellan's activities increased. Longstreet was compelled to move an infantry force to New Market Heights, which were on the line of the shortest advance from Harrison's Landing to Richmond.49 Lee was uncertain whether McClellan was demonstrating to deceive him, or testing out the strength of p266 the Confederates in his front, or preparing for a serious advance. In any case, unless some decision was soon reached and put in execution, both Lee and Jackson might be assaulted. So reasoning, Lee reached this solution: The two brigades that were coming from South Carolina would arrive on July 28. They would number 4000 men.50 Lee would incorporate them in his army and would send 18,000 veterans forthwith to Jackson for a blow against Pope. This would leave 56,000 men on the James. Lee would take his chances of holding Richmond with that number. To discourage and delay McClellan's advance, he would organize a diversion on the south side of the James against McClellan's base and would endeavor to interrupt the transport of supplies to McClellan by employing artillery on the lower James.51 In this way, Jackson might be strong enough to dispose of Pope, and McClellan might be held back until this was done, or, if McClellan advanced, a sufficient force would be at hand to maintain a good defensive on the newly fortified Richmond front.
Who should go to Jackson? Not Longstreet, because he would be needed at Richmond. The next man in ability and equipment was A. P. Hill. But he was still under arrest, and his senior brigadier, L. O'B.º Branch, was as yet too inexperienced, in Lee's opinion, to be entrusted with a division.52 Hill must be restored to duty. Longstreet's theory of discipline, which had inspired that officer's arrest, must be subordinated to the army's necessity. There was, however, another possible embarrassment. The commander of the "Light Division" was high-spirited and sensitive. Jackson played a lone hand, was stern in his discipline and was secretive in his methods. There was danger that Hill and Jackson might not work well in harness. Lee determined to provide against this in the most direct manner. In a letter to Jackson, he dropped a hint that was as positive as it was diplomatic:
A. P. Hill you will, I think, find a good officer, with whom you can consult, and by advising with your division commanders as to your movements much trouble will be saved you in arranging p267 details, as they can act more intelligently. I wish to save you trouble from my increasing your command."53
All this being arranged, Lee anticipated by one day the arrival of the two brigades from South Carolina and, on July 27, took the third step in the development of his plan: A. P. Hill, with his division and the Louisiana brigade, was ordered to Gordonsville.54 "I want Pope to be suppressed," Lee repeated.55 Hill's men moved quietly away on the day their orders were received. The Army of Northern Virginia was reduced by 20 per cent. Yet there is missing from Lee's correspondence the tension observable when he had faced the converse of the problem two months before and had been feeding troops to the Richmond line. Although Lee did not minimize his difficulties or display any rashness, his dispatches were calm and most of his movements assured. Three reasons may be advanced for this. First, he had acquired some experience in the quick transfer of large bodies of men on the interior lines; second, he was confident of the fighting qualities of his army; and third, he was beginning to read with more assurance the minds of the men who opposed him. Pope he never took very seriously; McClellan he respected but understood.
But for these psychological factors, the situation would have seemed most unpromising, with Pope strong on the upper Rappahannock, a force of unknown numbers at Fredericksburg, Burnside presumably still on his transports off Fort Monroe, and the Army of the Potomac in the entrenched camp at Harrison's Landing, supported by a navy that had undisputed command of the sea. McClellan was believed to have received an accession of numbers56 and was known to have a force much larger than Lee's. If, therefore, Burnside should reinforce McClellan, after Hill's departure had left Lee with only 56,000, an advance on Richmond would be a serious matter. On the other hand, if Burnside should join Pope, he would give the Army of Virginia p268 a number of men in excess of the 30,000 to 36,000 that Lee calculated Jackson would have on Hill's arrival.57 Burnside's movements consequently became of the utmost moment to Lee, who watched them at the end of July with more immediate concern than he felt either for Jackson or for his own army.58
The junction of Burnside and McClellan was a risk that had to be taken. Nothing could be done to prevent it. If it happened at once, only the completion of strong defenses and the stubbornest sort of fighting would negative it. If it were delayed, Jackson and Hill might meantime dispose of Pope and again be available for duty on the James.59 Meantime, Lee pushed the work on the fortification of Richmond and developed his plan to delay and interrupt McClellan's offensive preparation by the projected operation against his shipping. As Lee studied this diversion, he became impressed with its possibilities. He believed that if he could bring a heavy fire to bear on Harrison's Landing and could assail from the river banks the Federal supply vessels ascending the James, he could anchor McClellan to his base. This might make it possible to detach still more troops to Jackson, and thereby to drive, if not to destroy Pope.60 It was as Lee dwelt on the great results he might achieve if he could further reinforce Jackson that the first glimpse of the next stage of his larger strategy is to be had.
The details of the operation against McClellan's entrenched camp and supply line were assigned to Generals S. G. French and D. H. Hill. The concentration of artillery was entrusted to General W. N. Pendleton. Preparations were made with some care. Coggin's Point, on the south side of the James, opposite Harrison's, was chosen as the most favorable position. Forty-three guns, large and small, were secretly concentrated there. On the night of July 31-August 1, a violent bombardment of the Federal entrenched camp was begun. It caused much confusion but inflicted slight damage, and before daylight it was abandoned as the guns had to be withdrawn to avoid capture.61 Lee determined to persist in annoying his opponent,62 but when McClellan made p269 the obvious countermove, by sending a force across the James and occupying Coggin's Point on August 3,63 Lee had to admit his inability to drive him away. The whole operation was written down as a failure, except, Lee thought, as it might delay the start of McClellan's offensive a few days,64 at a time when every day might count.
If it was impossible to interfere materially with McClellan's occupation of Harrison's Landing, there was nothing at the moment that Lee could do except to prepare to resist McClellan's expected advance as vigorously as he might, and, in case of necessity, to recall Jackson and Hill, leaving Pope to do his worst against the Virginia Central Railroad. Meantime, the idea that had occurred to him while he was projecting the Coggin's Point expedition must have shaped itself in an insistent question: Was there any way by which he could strengthen Jackson so as to assure the destruction of Pope?
About this time there arrived as an exchanged prisoner of war the young captain who had been made prisoner on July 20 at Beaver Dam Station by the Federal cavalry in their raid. This officer was none other than John S. Mosby, subsequently head of the famous "Rangers" that bore his name. Mosby had been sent to Fort Monroe, and, while awaiting exchange, had kept his eyes open and had shrewdly questioned his guards. He had concluded from what he had seen and heard that Burnside's expedition was about to sail to Fredericksburg to join Pope's army, and he hastened to communicate to Lee that conclusion and the reasons for it.65 If Mosby was correct, his news manifestly was of the greatest moment and made it seem highly probable that the next major effort of the enemy was to be in northern Virginia.
But on August 5 the evidence seemed to indicate that the long-awaited offensive by McClellan was under way: the Confederate cavalry reported a heavy force advancing up the left bank of the James toward Richmond. Lee set himself for a shock. He put p270 three divisions in motion the next day and found McClellan drawn up at Malvern Hill, on the very ground occupied by the Federals on July 1. This time there was no hurried, blind attack by the Army of Northern Virginia. Instead, the Confederate lines were deliberately drawn. Arriving on the ground in person, Lee directed that the Confederate left be extended toward the Willis Church road, to command the routes that led to McClellan's rear. The Confederate right skirmished briskly with the Federals; there were many signs of approaching battle. Then, on the morning of August 7, when a clash seemed certain, an amazing situation was disclosed: the Federals had gone as they had come, and soon were back at Harrison's Landing!66
What did this mean? Obviously, if McClellan had any immediate intention of moving on Richmond, he would not occupy the strongest approach and then evacuate it overnight. But what was up? Why had he advanced at all? Lee concluded that his opponent must have made the demonstration to cover an advance on the part of Burnside in northern Virginia. Had Burnside really gone up the Rappahannock to Fredericksburg? Was he already there? If so, what was his objective? Stuart reported rumors that there were 16,000 infantry in Fredericksburg, and that 6000 cavalry which he had dispersed had undertaken a raid on Hanover Courthouse.67 Were these troops a part of Pope's command, or were they from Burnside? The surest means of dealing with them and with Pope's main force was, of course, for Jackson to advance. If Jackson would do that, and Pope were not strong, Pope would be apt to draw to his support the troops at Fredericksburg, provided they were under his command. But if Pope were strong and if the Fredericksburg troops were Burnside's, there was danger that they would be employed disastrously against Jackson's communications via the Virginia Central Railroad. The only way safely to ignore the force at Fredericksburg and at the same time to protect the railroad against raids, would be to send Jackson enough men for a speedy and successful blow at Pope. Then the force at Fredericksburg would have to fall back. But was it possible to strengthen Jackson further with McClellan where he was, strong and preparing, perhaps, to take p271 a new position, even though his withdrawal from Malvern Hill indicated plainly that he was not yet ready for an offensive?68
Thus the argument in Lee's mind pursued a circle, caution bringing him back to the waiting policy from which his desire to suppress Pope and his concern for the Virginia Central Railroad constantly were drawing him. In his dilemma he did the only thing he could do at a distance from a situation he could not fathom — he gave discretion to Jackson. On August 7 he wrote him fully. Explaining that he did not know whether he could promise the reinforcements Jackson required, he urged him not to count on them, though if possible he would send them. Then he reviewed the contingencies and especially cautioned Jackson not to attack the strong positions of the enemy but to turn them so as to draw the Federals out. "I would rather you should have easy fighting and heavy victories," he said. He concluded with carte blanche: "I must now leave the matter to your reflection and good judgment. Make up your mind what is best to be done under all the circumstances which surround us, and let me hear the result at which you arrive. I will inform you if any change takes place here that bears on the subject."69
Granting discretion to Jackson did not mean any evasion of his own responsibilities. Neither did it lead him to relax for a moment his efforts to find additional troops with which to reinforce Jackson. On the same day that he told Jackson to stand or to advance as his judgment dictated, he urged D. H. Hill to hurry the completion of the works at Drewry's Bluff, as it might soon be necessary to withdraw his division for service in the field.70 The next day, moreover, he ordered Hood to prepare to move to Hanover Junction, where he could protect the Virginia Central Railroad or move, if necessary, to Jackson's support.71
Jackson did not wait for the discretionary orders Lee sent him. Having learned that a part of Pope's troops were moving southward in advance of the main army, he notified Lee of his intention to attack them and set out accordingly.72 On the afternoon of August 9 he found the Federals on Cedar Run in the vicinity of an eminence that bore the sinister name of Slaughter Mountain. p272 He attacked viciously and after suffering a temporary reverse on part of his line, swept forward and drove the Federals from the field. His losses were 1276.73 It developed that the troops with whom he had been engaged were those of his old opponent of the Valley, General N. P. Banks.
Lee was delighted at Jackson's success and sent him a message of warm congratulation.74 The success justified the confidence that Lee had retained in Jackson even after the Seven Days. It showed that Jackson was himself again. Jackson, however, soon realized that he had met only the vanguard of Pope's army and that the remainder was rapidly coming up. Very prudently, on the night of August 11, he decided to withdraw closer to Gordonsville, there to await reinforcements.75 This move decided Lee on his course of action. The road to the Virginia Central was open. There was no longer any prospect that Jackson would be able to cripple Pope and return to Richmond in time to help in disposing of McClellan. Whatever the risks meantime, Jackson must be strengthened to strike a blow at his adversary and to save the railroad. On August 13, therefore, Lee ordered Longstreet with ten brigades to move to Jackson's aid.76 In dispatching Longstreet, Lee sketched a plan of advance for that officer's study on the ground.77
Scarcely had these orders been issued than Lee received a report that Burnside had left Fredericksburg and had joined Pope. Although the details were not wholly convincing, Lee believed the report to be correct,78 and he immediately directed Hood to carry out the projected movement of his division of two brigades to Hanover Junction. There he could cover the railroad and, as Burnside advanced, he could parallel him and join Longstreet.79
By one of the curious chances of the war, on the very day when Lee decided that he must face the risk involved in these further p273 detachments from the James, it developed that the risk might not be so great as he had previously believed. Ever since the end of July there had been rumors that McClellan was reducing his force at Harrison's Landing,80 but nothing definite was reported until August 13, when an English deserter came into the Confederate lines and stated that part of McClellan's army had embarked for a move. Deserters' stories were notoriously unreliable, but this one impressed Lee as being true. He immediately instructed D. H. Hill to send scouts down the right bank of the river to ascertain the facts.81 The next day, August 14, D. H. Hill reported there was no doubt that Fitz John Porter had left McClellan. Three deserters from Burnside's army averred that he had reached Fredericksburg with 12,000 men and after arriving there had been reinforced by twenty-one regiments.82
This was news of the greatest moment. Lee quickly interpreted it to indicate that a part of the Army of the Potomac was being withdrawn to support Pope.83 That officer would soon present a most formidable front on the line of the Virginia Central Railroad. Unless Jackson were still further reinforced he would be overwhelmed, even with Longstreet's support. But, along with a great danger, a large opportunity was presented. If Lee could take advantage of the interior lines and concentrate against Pope before any troops from the Army of the Potomac could reach him, a great victory might be won. But it would be a race, perhaps a close race, between Lee's reinforcements, already moving by rail to Gordonsville, and McClellan's detachments, hurrying by water down the James and up the Rappahannock or the Potomac, and thence overland. Whoever won that race might win the war. No time was to be lost. Lee acted with the utmost decision and dispatch. He immediately decided to go to Gordonsville himself, and he sounded out the President on the dispatch thither of R. H. Anderson's division, which was then at Drewry's Bluff.84 Lee had to be diplomatic in his approach, because Mr. Davis was sensitive to any danger to Richmond. For his own part Lee was convinced that the changed situation justified a further reduction of force on the Richmond front. The great p274 questions in his mind were these: How large a part of McClellan's army was on the move? How many of the Confederate troops still on the James could be sent northward? How much of a lead did McClellan have?
Some time could be saved by delivering the attack on Pope as soon as the troops were at hand. To assure that, Lee arranged for a council of war with Longstreet and Jackson, to be held as soon as his train reached Gordonsville. As a preliminary, he telegraphed Longstreet that he inclined to attack by the right flank, and he renewed a suggestion made before Longstreet left Richmond — that Stuart move around Pope's army, get in rear of it, and attack its communications.85
G. W. Smith, who had returned from sick leave on June 10,86 was put at the head of the three divisions to be left behind, and was instructed to speed the completion of the Richmond defenses and to hold them to the last extremity.87 In anticipation of the President's approval of the detachment of R. H. Anderson, Lee directed that officer to prepare for a movement to Gordonsville with no surplus wagons.88
So crowded was the 14th day of August with these arrangements that Lee did not have time to ride into Richmond and say farewell, though, with his usual care in such matters, he sent in his straw hat and a surplus undershirt to be saved for calmer summers.89 At 4 o'clock on the morning of August 15, the first stage of the transfer of the army to the new front having been completed, he took train. "I go to Gordonsville," he told Custis. "My after movements depend on circumstances that I cannot foresee."90
TWO SONS OF R. E. LEE
WHO BECAME MAJOR GENERALS IN THE CONFEDERATE ARMY
Right: G. W. Custis Lee, the eldest of the three sons of the General;
Such, then, was the chain of circumstances that prompted Lee to hurry troops away from Richmond with even greater speed and secrecy than he had displayed in concentrating them there two months before. First had developed the sentimental necessity of holding Richmond as the symbol of Southern resistance after the battles of the Seven Days. This had found its immediate p275 expression in a strengthening of the city's defenses, and this, in turn, had made it possible for him to detach Jackson when the arrival of Pope at Culpeper had raised fears for the safety of communications with the valley of the Shenandoah via the Virginia Central Railroad. Pope's hard orders had next aroused Lee's indignation and had been a major factor in disposing him to send A. P. Hill to strengthen Jackson for a blow at Pope as soon as he had received two brigades of reinforcements from South Carolina. To hold McClellan inactive while Jackson struck Pope, Lee had organized the Coggin's Point expedition. Although this had failed, Lee's desire to dispose of Pope had steadily increased, and McClellan's advance to Malvern Hill had convinced him that Burnside was planning either to join Pope or to threaten Jackson's communications. Lee had just prepared to send Hood to guard the railroad when the withdrawal of Jackson from Cedar Run had still further increased his concern and had prompted him to dispatch Longstreet to Gordonsville. This had been followed by the discovery that McClellan was reducing force to strengthen Pope. Thereupon Lee concluded that he had to run a race to attack and destroy Pope before McClellan's troops could reach the new Federal commander in northern Virginia.
These events were not spectacular in themselves, but they are of interest to the student of war in two particulars, and first as an illustration of the manner in which sound military judgment must sometimes supplement the fullest information that can be procured of the movements of an adversary. Lee had more to do than interpret his intelligence reports: he had to read in them and through them the intentions of four separate forces, and on the validity of his conclusions he had to stake the safety of Richmond and the life of his army. Above all, he had to act with promptness. Delay, as so often happens, might mean disaster.
How correct were his conclusions? To answer that question, in a case of so much complexity, is, at this period of his career, to take the measure of Lee as a strategist, in a very important respect.
Lee had learned of Burnside's movement to Fredericksburg, it will be recalled, on August 5 or 6. That officer had not landed there until the night of August 3 and did not report all his troops p276 ashore until August 9.91 It was on August 13 that Lee was convinced that troops from Burnside's command were moving to reinforce Pope; the first troops to depart, King's division, which had been at Fredericksburg before the arrival of Burnside, had actually left on August 9‑10,92 and the major reinforcement, Reno with twelve regiments, started on the evening of August 12.93 As for McClellan, he had passed through a long controversy with the administration over the removal of his army from the James.94 Aside from his wounded, the first troops that he sent off were some batteries and 1000 cavalry needed for Burnside, who had only a few mounted men. These left on August 11.95 Two days later Lee was informed that McClellan was reducing force. The news of the departure of Fitz John Porter's corps was received by Lee before Porter's column had crossed the Chickahominy on its march down the Peninsula.96 As Lee took the train for Gordonsville, confident that he could safely diminish the troops guarding Richmond, McClellan's army was cooking rations for its departure from Harrison's Landing.97 Lee's record in interpreting the plan of his opponents thus speaks for itself. It is the more p277 remarkable when one remembers that his intelligence service, at this time, was still crude.
The transfer of Confederate units from James River to Gordonsville is the second point of interest in this period, because it is an admirable example of the manner in which rapid troop movements could be conducted secretly during the War between the States. General King, at Fredericksburg, had heard a rumor of Jackson's departure from Richmond three days before the men were put on trains, and he had promptly reported it,98 but no attention had been paid to it. Not until July 16 had there been further intimation that Jackson's "foot-cavalry" had left the James,99 and then, for a week, conflicting stories had circulated as to Jackson's whereabouts and strength.100 After it had become reasonably sure that Jackson and Ewell were in the vicinity of Gordonsville, the Federals had not been in agreement as to the size of the Confederate force in their front. Estimates ran from 15,000 to 80,000.101 Hill's arrival at Gordonsville had been unobserved and had occurred at a time when the Federals had been satisfied that the Virginia Central was operating irregularly, if at all.102 It was August 3 before Pope was certain that Hill had joined Jackson.103 Longstreet arrived with equal secrecy. As late as August 20, only when Lee was ready to launch his offensive, were the Federals satisfied that Longstreet was on the move.104
On the accuracy of his deductions, the secrecy of his troop movements and the confusion of his foes, Lee knew little when, on the morning of August 15, he "took the cars" for Gordonsville. It was the first time he had travelled on that railway since he had returned from West Virginia in November, 1861. What a change that brief period had wrought! "Granny" Lee, the butt of all the sarcasm of the street-corner strategists, had become "the King of Spades" to his grumbling trench-digging soldiers; and now, as the "first captain of the Confederacy," the "saviour of Richmond," he was leaving a delivered capital with the confidence of the South. Daring marches, thrilling victories, and heart-breaking p278 disappointments lay ahead, but the worn rails over which he was moving were to be, in a singular sense, a new frontier. South of the line of the Virginia Central he was not to permit the main army of the enemy to pass again for twenty-one bloody months.
2 J. W. Jones: Christ in Camp, 49.
9 Lee's Dispatches, 42‑43.
10 28 S. H. S. P., 294.
11 28 S. H. S. P., 294.
13 Richmond Whig, July 22, 1862, p4, col. 1.
14 July 28, 1862; White, 173.
20 This assertion is abundantly proved by the facts that follow in the text. It is proper to state, however, that it is contrary to the contentions of nearly all General Lee's early biographers. Writing before the publication of the Official Records, or else neglecting the all-important correspondence accompanying the reports in that vast storehouse, and unfamiliar, besides, with Lee's dispatch of August 30, 1862, these writers read into General Lee's quick detachment of troops an intention, on his part, from early in July, to threaten Washington and thereby to force McClellan to withdraw from the James. See Taylor's Four Years, 57; Long, 183; Marshall, 122; Fitz Lee, 173; Taylor's General Lee, 85. The writer has not found one line of evidence to support this claim, and a multitude of facts to disprove such a contention. It is noteworthy that General Maurice avoided error in this particular and that Colonel Henderson laid little emphasis on Lee's alleged purpose at this time to play on Lincoln's fears for the safety of Washington.
23 2 B. and L., 513.
24 Dabney, 486‑87.
25 40 S. H. S. P., 180‑81.
26 Ibid., 182.
28 C. S. Anderson in Locomotive Engineering, September, 1897, p678.
29 O. R., 12, part 3, p915. Four supplementary batteries were dispatched the next day (O. R., 51, part 2, pp591‑92). For a vivid account of the difficulties encountered in moving these troops, see C. S. Anderson in Locomotive Engineering, April, 1893, p177.
39 Text in McCabe, 182.
43 To Mrs. Lee, July 28, 1862; R. E. Lee, Jr., 77.
44 II O. R., 4, 329, 362; 2 Davis, 315; 19 S. H. S. P., 105; Cooke, 105‑6; McCabe, 190 ff.; Lee's Dispatches, 45. General Halleck refused to receive Lee's letter on the ground that it contained insults to the government of the United States, but Pope's "pillage order" was materially modified on Aug. 14, and Steinwehr was rebuked for the conduct of his troops (O. R., 12, part 3, pp573, 577). The effect of the orders, however, was demoralizing. (See a correspondent of The New York World, quoted in McCabe, 185‑88.) In one instance mentioned by Miss Brock (op. cit., 156‑57), Pope's orders were made a basis of false accusation.
52 Lee's Dispatches, 38‑39. General Jos. R. Anderson, who had been Hill's senior brigade-commander, had resigned on July 19 to manage the Tredegar Iron Works, the munition-plant of which he was the chief proprietor.
54 O. R., 12, part 3, pp917‑19. It is possible that Lee was influenced in his decision by a rumor that Burnside was returning to North Carolina (O. R., 11, part 3, p656), and by two spies' report that there was only a small force at Fredericksburg (Lee's Dispatches, 36‑37), but in none of his rather full dispatches of this period is there any reference to these factors.
58 Marshall, 122‑23.
65 Cooke, 109; Cooke: Wearing of the Gray, 116; Cooke: Life of Stonewall Jackson, 256. It has not been possible to establish with certainty the date of Mosby's arrival at Lee's headquarters, but it is a reasonable inference from Lee to Jackson, Aug. 4, 1862, O. R., 12, part 3, pp922‑23, that Lee did not have information on that day that Burnside was moving to support Pope, and it is clear from Lee to Jackson, Aug. 7, 1862, O. R., 12, part 3, pp925‑26, that he knew by Aug. 6 that Burnside was in Fredericksburg. Mosby, therefore, must have reached Lee on Aug. 5 or 6.
79 O. R., 11, part 3, pp674‑75. It has generally been supposed that Longstreet was sent to Jackson on receipt of the report of Burnside's advance and that the orders to Hood were issued simultaneously, but Lee to Longstreet, O. R., 11, part 3, p676, makes it certain that the movement of Longstreet was ordered prior to the report of Burnside's advance, and that Hood's advance was ordered subsequent thereto.
82 Lee's Dispatches, 47‑49.
84 Lee's Dispatches, 47‑49.
89 R. E. Lee to G. W. C. Lee, Aug. 14, 1862; Jones, L. and L., 189.
94 After McClellan reached Harrison's Landing, he recovered a measure of his self-confidence, though he still believed that Lee outnumbered him two to one (O. R., 11, part 3, p315). On July 25, he received a visit from Major-General H. W. Halleck, who had assumed command as general in chief two days previously. Halleck was for the withdrawal of the Army of the Potomac to northern Virginia; McClellan was for remaining where he was. He stated that if Halleck would give him 30,000 additional men, he could attack Richmond with a good chance of success. Halleck explained that only 20,000 could be supplied. The next day McClellan agreed to resume the offensive if the 20,000 were forthcoming, but he was not sanguine of success. He still insisted that Lee had 200,000 men (O. R., 11, part 3, pp337‑38). "My opinion," he wrote Mr. Lincoln on the 28th, "is more and more firm that here is the defence of Washington" (O. R., 11, part 1, p75; cf. ibid., 11, part 3, p342). Halleck, however, was convinced that the Federals were dangerously disadvantaged with Lee's army between McClellan and Pope, and as he had the ear of Mr. Lincoln and of Mr. Stanton, he prevailed upon them to order the abandonment of the plan of operations to which General Grant was compelled to return, in effect, before he could capture Richmond. On Aug. 3, Halleck sent McClellan orders to prepare to move to Aquia Creek as soon as possible, and to begin immediately the removal of his sick and wounded by transport (O. R., 11, part 1, pp80‑81). The evacuation of invalids and casualties was a slow process, provoking much tart correspondence between Halleck and McClellan (O. R., 11, part 1, p84; O. R., 11, part 3, p377). McClellan obeyed orders, it would appear, as promptly as circumstances allowed, but he held to the view that the transfer to northern Virginia was not in the public interest, and as late as Aug. 12, he argued that he could attack to advantage as Lee's army had been much weakened by detachments (O. R., 11, part 3, pp372‑73).
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