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Chapter
This webpage reproduces a chapter of
R. E. Lee: A Biography

by Douglas Southall Freeman

published by Charles Scribner's Sons,
New York and London, 1934

The text, and illustrations except as noted, are in the public domain.


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Vol. II
p415
Chapter XXIX

Matching Wits with Changing Opponents

Precisely two months after the exhausted survivors of the Maryland operations dragged themselves back across the Potomac they were marching swiftly in long, confident columns to meet the enemy on the Rappahannock. Never, except during the dreadful last retreat to Appomattox, was the army more disorganized than when it returned to Virginia on September 19, 1862; never, unless after Chancellorsville, was its spirit so high or assured as when it was moving on November 19, 1862, from the hills around Culpeper to the heights at Fredericksburg. It was a recovery in every respect as remarkable as that which in less than three weeks turned the defeated host of Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Pope into the storming columns that carried Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.McClellan's flags to the walls of the Dunker Church. Perhaps it was a more extraordinary feat when the ability of the North to supply unlimited stores and abounding reserves after Second Manassas is compared with the feeble resources of men and matériel the Confederacy could command in making good the losses sustained in Maryland. This transformation of his army between Sharpsburg and Fredericksburg was essentially the work of Lee. The measures he took to refit and inspire it anew constitute a lesson that may some day be helpful to the commander of an American army who finds his ranks ragged and depleted after an indecisive battle.

Rest, food, refitting, and discipline — that was Lee's prescription. Rest was largely the gift of General McClellan, who was slow to start across the Potomac for a renewal of the campaign. Lee made the most of this adversary's delay. Except for necessary operations in destroying railroads and watching his opponent, he left the infantry as long as he could in untroubled camps. Most of the divisions, with little marching to do, got five full weeks for recuperation in a beautiful country, which was then very dry.1

p416 Food he procured in an enlarged ration2 by using nearby mills and by collecting cattle. It was not an easy task. Increasingly he had to devote his time to commissary duty. Before he left the Blue Ridge for the lower Rappahannock Valley, he received notice from the War Department that provisions were scarce and that a cut in the army ration seemed inevitable.3 It was the first serious warning of the shortage of food that was ultimately to make near-starvation almost as potent a foe as the Army of the Potomac.

Refitting was a large undertaking because the army was in tatters, but Lee continued the appeals he made immediately after his return from Maryland. Ere long clothing and blankets in considerable quantities were forwarded to the army. A temporary shortage of arms was reported from Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Jackson's command, where 3000 men were without weapons, but this was promptly covered by the issue of captured rifles. As late as the battle of Fredericksburg, however, a few men were still supplied with smooth-bore muskets,4 which they threw away for the better Federal arms they found on that field.5

The army's greatest lack was shoes and horses. On November 15 more than 6400 men in Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Longstreet's command were barefooted, and in that condition had to march to Fredericksburg.6 The shoes that were supplied some of the units were mere strips of untanned hide, stitched crudely together as moccasins and so long that the men could scarcely walk in them.7 The army mounts, which had seen very hard service, were greatly reduced, and in November suffered much from an outbreak of foot-and‑mouth disease. Lee did what he could to conserve them by humane treatment and by the consolidation of small artillery units that used an unnecessary number of animals. He proposed, also, to transfer dismounted cavalrymen to the infantry and to offer cavalry service to foot p417 soldiers who would procure mounts. The War Department was urged to bring horses from Texas, where they were still abundant. The utmost vigilance on Lee's part, and Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Stuart's success in capturing some 1200 horses in Pennsylvania in October,8 scarcely sufficed to keep the wagons rolling and the cavalry in the field. The final exhaustion of the horse supply, which was destined to cripple the army in the winter of 1864‑65, was ominously forecast as early as the autumn of 1862.9

Lee's disciplinary measures were incident to his effort to increase the army's strength and were of three sorts — the collection of stragglers, recruitment, and reorganization under competent officers. Continuing his efforts to procure stern legislation for dealing with straggler, he had the nearby country combed for them. J. R. Jones reported from the Shenandoah Valley that he had sent back between 5000 and 6000 by September 27, and on October 8 Secretary Randolph noted with satisfaction that the strength of the army had increased by 20,000 in eight days.10 Convalescents were forwarded in considerable numbers. Under the conscription law, the vigorous enforcement of which Lee warmly urged,11 new recruits were sent in a constant if small stream. These men, however, so generally fell sick that Lee asked the War Department to detain them at camps of instruction until they had passed through the communicable diseases which were then prevalent in the ranks.12 By October 10, Lee had 64,273 present for duty; by October 20 he could count 68,033; and according to the tri-monthly return of November 10 he had 70,909,13 though he did not then consider that he had half enough men to resist the enemy on even terms.14

Besides the consolidation of the weaker artillery companies, which encountered some legal difficulties,15 Lee's scheme of reorganization involved the division of the cavalry into four brigades. His son Rooney was promoted to the command of one of these, with the rank of brigade general.16 Another step in p418 reorganization was the choice of the better qualified officers for the commands that had lost their leaders,17 though little progress was made in applying the new law Congress had passed for the demotion of incompetent officers.18 A vigorous effort was made, at the same time, to strengthen the Texas units,19 which had now become Lee's favorite shock-troops.

The most important step in reorganization was the division of the armies into two corps, the first under Longstreet and the second under Jackson. Congress had passed an act providing for the appointment of lieutenant generals, and Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Davis had written for recommendations.20 Lee unhesitatingly endorsed Longstreet. In advocating like rank for Jackson, Lee employed language which records the final dissipation of all his doubts as to "Stonewall's" willingness to co-operate. Lee said: "My opinion of the merits of General Jackson has been greatly enhanced during this expedition. He is true, honest and brave; has a single eye to the good of the service, and spares no exertion to accomplish his object."21 The formal announcement of these promotions was not made until November 6.22 Had Lee thought it necessary to divide the army into three corps, he would have recommended the promotion of A. P. Hill, whom he ranked next after Longstreet and Jackson.23

Lee sometimes confided to his staff officers that he wished some capable brigadier headed a division commanded by a mediocre major general;24 but in this instance he declined to recommend promotions for the vacated places of the new lieutenant generals. "I believe you have sufficient names before you," he told the President, "to fill the vacancies. Your own knowledge of the p419 claims and qualifications of the officers will, I feel assured, enable you to make the best selection."25 This was dangerous deference, for the responsibility would rest on Lee and the price might be the lives of hundreds of men, if the President erred in his choice. Lee probably refrained because he knew the embarrassments of the President at the time. A growing jealousy of the Virginia generals was being voiced by those who felt that the soldiers of the Old Dominion were being unduly advanced. There was much insistence on "recognizing" the different states in the distribution of military honors. Politicians of a certain stamp put residence above merit. Graduates of the United States Military Academy, also, were regarded with disfavor by some ardent patriots who had no military education.26

Such were Lee's methods in refitting and reorganizing the army for the next struggle. It was a work he had been called upon to perform after the Seven Days, a work to which he had to give himself at the close of nearly all his subsequent campaigns. While he labored in this manner to raise the efficiency of his forces, two other influences, very different in their nature, operated on individual soldiers. By proclamation of September 23, President Lincoln announced that he would emancipate on January 1, 1863, all slaves in districts where the people were "in rebellion against the United States."27 This confirmed the belief of Southerners that the election of Lincoln was a conspiracy against the Constitution. A new sense of justification showed itself in the resistance of the South. A little later there began in the army a "revival of religion" that spread from division to division for more than a year. This improved discipline and helped to give the army the quality that Cromwell desired when he said he wanted only such men as "made some conscience" of what they did.28

Straggling ceased altogether.29 By October 12 an observant p420 officer could write: "Our army is in splendid condition. It had been rapidly increasing during the last three weeks by conscripts and convalescents who have been coming in. If the enemy cross the Potomac to begin the offensive, we shall, I think, have another great battle . . ., and I feel sure that it will be a splendid victory for us."30 At headquarters, Major Walter Taylor echoed the same opinion.31 Colonel Garnet Wolseley, later Field-Marshal Lord Wolseley of the British army, who visited Lee at this time, observed no signs of demoralization. "I never saw [an army]," he wrote after he left, "composed of finer men, or that looked more like work than that portion of General Lee's army which I was fortunate enough to see inspected." As for Lee, "he spoke," Wolseley attested, "as a man proud of his country, and confident of ultimate success under the blessings of the Almighty, whom he glorified for past successes, and whom aid he invoked for all future operations."32 It may have been Wolseley whose face betrayed some surprise when he saw how ragged were the breeches of Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Hood's men after their first files had passed in review. "Never mind the raggedness, Colonel," Lee said quietly, "the enemy never sees the backs of my Texans."33

The first stages of the reorganization were passed while Lee was still handicapped by the injury he had received on August 31. All his correspondence had to be conducted with one or another of his staff officers as amanuensis. It was not until approximately October 12 that he was able to dress and undress himself with his left hand, and, with his right, to sign his name.34 Trying as were the times, and hard as were his duties, he did not forget the amenities. There was a note of regret in his reference to the death of his "old engineering comrade, General Mansfield," his superior officer more than thirty years before at Cockspur Island, who had been killed at Sharpsburg.35a When General Kearny's widow applied for the mount and horse furnishings that had been captured when that gallant Federal had fallen at Ox Hill, Lee had them appraised, paid for them himself, and sent them p421 to Mrs. Kearny, pending adjustment by the War Department.36

The last days of his convalescence were brightened by a visit from Custis, who came from Richmond to see him,37 but within a few weeks he was dealt a personal blow far worse than a physical injury. His second daughter, Annie, had gone to the Warren White Sulphur Spring, North Carolina, and had been stricken ill there. On October 20, she died. Lee had known of her illness and had been most apprehensive, but he was not prepared for her death when he received the announcement of it. After he got the letter, he pulled himself together and went over the official correspondence of the morning in Major Taylor's company, without revealing his loss or showing his emotion. After Major Taylor left, he took out the letter again and as he read its pathetic details of the passing of the girl — she was only twenty-three — he could no longer repress his grief. When Taylor unceremoniously re-entered the tent a few minutes later, Lee was weeping. As soon as he could control himself, he sent word to his sons in the army. "I cannot express the anguish I feel at the death of my sweet Annie," he wrote Mrs. Lee. "To know that I shall never see her again on earth, that her place in our circle, which I always hoped one day to enjoy, is forever vacant, is agonizing in the extreme. But God in this, as in all things, has mingled mercy with the blow, in selecting that one best prepared to leave us. May you be able to join me in saying, "His will be done' . . . "38 To his brother, Charles Carter Lee, he wrote in the same spirit. God "has taken," he said, "the purest and best; but his will be done."39 His grief hung long and heavily upon him. From Fredericksburg, the next month, when every day threatened battle, he wrote to his daughter, Mary: "In the quiet hours of the night, when there is nothing to lighten the full weight of my grief, I feel as if I should be overwhelmed. I have always counted, if God should spare me a few days after this Civil War was ended, that I should have her with me, but year after year my hopes go out, and I must be resigned."40

Meantime, the tragedy was shaping itself again to a bloody p422 climax. Lee knew too well the weakness of Harpers Ferry to attempt to hold it. On September 22 it was occupied by Sumner's corps.41 Anticipating no early attack from this vanguard, Lee set a large force to work destroying twenty miles of the track of the Baltimore and Ohio west of the town.42 While maintaining his own line of communications down the Shenandoah Valley by means of his wagons,43 he proceeded, also, to break up the railway between Harpers Ferry and Winchester, so as to retard an advance by the enemy in that direction.44 Before the wrecking of the Baltimore and Ohio was well under way, he retired with the greater part of the army a few miles higher up the valley pike, with his left at Bunker Hill and his right near Winchester.45 His headquarters were established at Falling Waters.46

Federal activity in North Carolina and signs of an advance from Norfolk up the south side of the James River about this time created some alarm in Richmond and led to an agitation for the return of the Army of Northern Virginia.47 Lee was not unmindful of the safety of the capital, but he believed that McClellan's first advance would be toward the Virginia Central Railroad, which he thought he could protect by manoeuvring on the flank of the enemy.48 However, in order to ascertain what the enemy was doing and at the same time to delay and demoralize him, he ordered Stuart on October 8 to undertake a cavalry raid into Maryland and Pennsylvania. He outlined Stuart's route in some detail and set the destruction of the bridge over the Concocheagueº at Chambersburg as his main object. If this could be done, the Cumberland Valley Railroad would be cut and McClellan would be forced to bring up his supplies over the Baltimore and Ohio westward from Baltimore.49

Stuart left camp with 1800 men and four guns on October 9, crossed the Potomac at McCoy's Ford, between Williamsport and Hancock, on the morning of October 10, reached Chambersburg, p423 Penna., that night, and sent a detachment to destroy the bridge. Unfortunately, the structure was found to be of iron and defied the wreckers. Riding fast from Chambersburg to escape the Federal cavalry, Stuart passed through Emmitsburg and Hyattstown and recrossed the Potomac at White's Ferry, near Poolsville, on the morning of October 12. He brought off 1200 horses, leaving 60 of his own jaded mounts on the road, and escorted into the Confederate lines some thirty Federal office-holders as hostages. In twenty-seven hours he had covered eighty miles with no casualties except one man wounded and two missing. The Federal cavalry that followed him lost nearly half their men from straggling and were useless for days as a result of their mad riding.50

Stuart's observations on this Chambersburg raid convinced Lee that McClellan was not withdrawing troops eastward,51 but Lee did not interpret this to mean that the Army of the Potomac had abandoned all hope of moving on the Confederate capital. Although he considered that Richmond was in no immediate danger, he believed that if McClellan found it impossible to advance southward to the Virginia Central Railroad, he would later move against Richmond from the south side of the James. Meantime, the longer the Army of Northern Virginia could delay the enemy on the frontier, the shorter the period McClellan would have for field operations.

This last consideration became the major factor in Lee's plan of campaign. Whatever was done and whatever had to be risked, Lee reasoned that he must fight for time. A junction with his ally, winter, was his main objective.52 Temporarily, to create a diversion and to interrupt McClellan's communications with the West, he had considered an advance by Loring from the Kanawha Valley to the line of the Baltimore and Ohio, but lateness of the season and a threat by the enemy in the Kanawha district compelled him to forgo this.53

On October 16 word reached headquarters that a mixed Federal force of some size had crossed the Potomac and was making its p424 way southwestward from Shepherdstown toward the Confederate front. Lee hoped that if McClellan were advancing, he would move up the Valley of the Shenandoah, but his reports during the day favored the view that McClellan was merely feeling out the Confederate lines in force. Stuart opposed the enemy's progress and fell slowly back before him. To strengthen Stuart against eventualities, A. P. Hill was ordered in support. Early in the morning of the 17th, when couriers reported the enemy still advancing on the road that led from Kearneysville on the Baltimore and Ohio to Smithfield,54 Lee issued precautionary orders55 and rode out in person to examine the situation. Finding the division commanders on the alert and the enemy hesitant in his movements, he did not linger long at the front. With a few staff officers and couriers, he rode back toward headquarters. Ten minutes after he crossed the Kearneysville-Smithfield road, a small Federal scouting party galloped by on its way to Smithfield. It was Lee's closest call since the August morning when he had met a similar Federal cavalcade near Salem, on his march to join Jackson at Groveton. Before the day was over, the enemy returned the way he had come. The alarm was past for the time, and the army settled down once more to await McClellan's next move.56

Convinced that the blow would fall soon, Lee made his preparations with care. He ordered the routes through the Blue Ridge examined,57 and on October 22 he directed General J. G. Walker to take his division eastward over the mountains to Upperville to check raids in that district and to observe the enemy.58 Stuart was directed to place cavalry on the eastern flank of Walker, and Colonel John R. Chambliss, commanding a small cavalry force around Fredericksburg, was told to connect his pickets with those of Walker. In this way Lee put a screen between himself and the enemy all the way from Martinsburg to Fredericksburg, a distance of approximately ninety-five miles.59

p425 Four days passed. Then, on October 26, the outposts reported that the Federal army was crossing the Potomac, apparently in full strength. More than a month had been gained; the gray regiments were rested and ready; and Lee, though conscious of the odds, faced his old antagonist with steadfast heart. On the very day of McClellan's crossing he wrote his brother: "I am glad you derive satisfaction from the operations of the army. I acknowledge nothing can surpass the valor and endurance of our troops, yet while so much remains to be done, I feel as if nothing had been accomplished. But we must endure to the end, and if our people are true to themselves and our soldiers continue to discard all thoughts of self and to press nobly forward in defence alone of their country and their rights, I have no fear of the result. We may be annihilated, but we cannot be conquered. No sooner is one army scattered than another rises up. This snatches from us the fruits of victory and covers the battlefields with our dead. Yet what have we to live for if not victorious?"60

In this spirit Lee once more asked himself the vexing old question: What will the enemy do? McClellan had two routes of immediate advance open to him. First, he could move southward down the Shenandoah Valley toward Staunton. By holding all the gaps of the Blue Ridge this would be a reasonably safe move, but it involved the maintenance of lengthy communication by wagon train. Further, as Jackson had demonstrated, the Shenandoah Valley afforded excellent ground for strategic defensive manoeuvre, especially in the vicinity of the Massanutton Mountain. The other route open to McClellan was Pope's old road east of the Blue Ridge, with Gordonsville and the seizure of the Virginia Central Railroad as the first objectives. This line was much less protected than that of the Shenandoah Valley, but it had the great advantage of offering railway communication via the Orange and Alexandria Railway. The two routes appear on the accompanying sketch.


[image ALT: zzz]
McClellan's alternative lines of advance, October 26, 1862.º

From the time of his return to Virginia after the Maryland expedition, Lee had hoped that McClellan would enter the Shenandoah Valley, but he considered it more likely his foe p426 would move southward on the east side of the Blue Ridge, and he had to provide for either contingency. He did so without delay. On October 28 he ordered the army divided. Jackson was to withdraw a few miles up the Valley to the road from Berryville to Charlestown, where he would have better forage and would be nearer the passes of the Blue Ridge. Semi-independent command was given "Stonewall," with instructions to act at discretion when he could not readily communicate with army headquarters. Longstreet was to march for Culpeper, accompanying Lee.61 The two corps were to keep in touch with each other, so that they could be united on either side of the Blue Ridge as McClellan's movements might require. If the enemy advanced up the Valley in force, Jackson was to delay him, retire before p427 him, and then make for the gaps through which, if necessary, he might form junction with Longstreet. In case the enemy marched southward east of the mountains and gave him an opening, Jackson was to move on the rear of the Unionists and cut their communications. Longstreet was to defend the direct line of advance east of the Blue Ridge. The cavalry was to be divided between the corps, and one brigade was to operate on the flank and in front of McClellan.62

At this stage of his preparations Lee was called to Richmond, which he had not visited since he had left on August 14 to join Jackson at Gordonsville. The reason for the summons was the desire of the President to discuss with him the size of the reinforcements that could be sent Lee from southern Virginia and eastern North Carolina, where some believed the enemy had abandoned all thought of an early offensive. The question was a delicate one, for opinion as to the intentions of the Federal garrisons on the coast was divided. Lee was in Richmond on November 163 and conferred with the President and General S. G. French, who was in immediate command of the threatened area. At the "Gray House," Lee asked French what was the least number of men he would require to hold his line for a short time. After reflecting, French said 6000. "That's reasonable," Lee answered. "When you return, order all above that number to report to me." French remembered this as an example of Lee's consideration in not strengthening his army at the expense of other officers charged with the heavy responsibility.64

By November 6, Lee was back at Culpeper, where he established his headquarters in a pine thicket.65 He found the situation developing fast. The enemy was advancing with some vigor between the Blue Ridge and the Orange and Alexandria Railroad and was holding all the passes on his right flank and in rear of his right. It seemed for the time as if McClellan were seeking to interpose between Jackson and Longstreet, though Lee did not believe his cautious antagonist would venture far southward on the eastern side of the mountains, so long as Jackson remained potentially on his flank. Neither did he believe McClellan would p428 try to descend on Jackson unless he felt able to make an overwhelming detachment of force for that purpose. His first hope was to turn McClellan's columns near the Blue Ridge. Concluding that this was not possible, he suggested to Jackson that he move up the Valley so that he could quickly unite with Longstreet through Swift Run Gap in case of emergency.66

Lee learned on the 7th that the advance of the enemy had reached Warrenton and that his cavalry was on the Rappahannock.67 During the next few days he was apprized of the arrival of further units around Warrenton. The cavalry was active, and there were some indications that the enemy, after all, might be planning to march into the Shenandoah Valley, in which case Lee intended to throw Longstreet against his line of communications.68 But nothing happened. To the surprise of many, the general advance stopped. On the 10th, within twenty-four hours after the reason for this halt became known to the Army of the Potomac, it was reported to Lee: McClellan had been superseded on the 7th by Major General Ambrose E. Burnside and on the 9th had transferred command.69

The news was received by the Confederates with regrets and rejoicings curiously mingled. Lee was sorry that his old associate of the Mexican War was no longer to oppose him. "We always understood each other so well," he said to Longstreet. "I fear they may continue to make these changes till they find some one whom I don't understand." He was sorry, too, that a man who had always conducted operations with science and humanity was supplanted by one whose respect for principle he had no means of determining until Burnside should begin field operations.70 Longstreet was glad of the change, because he thought McClellan was developing as a general and, if left in command, would have given the Army of Northern Virginia no further breathing spell.71 Others reasoned that the change was to the advantage of the South, since Burnside was regarded as less able than "Little Mac."72 Some of the officers of the army insisted p429 that the removal of McClellan would demoralize the troops of his former command, who had held him in high esteem73 — a feeling that was echoed in Warrenton by many of the retiring leader's old lieutenants.74

McClellan left to return no more. Lee did not cross swords with him thereafter and never saw him again. To the last manoeuvre, in this final phase of McClellan's operations, Lee had reasoned rightly as to his opponent's intentions. Just as Lee had believed, McClellan had moved southward in the hope of striking at Gordonsville. If that proved impossible, McClellan's plan was to shift to Fredericksburg and to advance on Richmond by that line or preferably to move the army by sea to James River.75 McClellan had not been confident that his proposed advance on Gordonsville was practicable. His partial success at Sharpsburg had not lessened his secret feeling of inferiority to Lee, whose strength he overestimated in November as in June. Even as stout a soldier as Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.George Gordon Meade had not been hopeful of outmanoeuvring the Confederates. "They are so skillful in strategy," he bluntly confessed.76 Besides, Meade did not believe that the Orange and Alexandria Railroad could handle more than one-third of the supplies the army would require.

On November 12, Lee began to suspect that the change of commanders would involve a change of plan. Although the only definite evidence he had of this was the failure of the Federals to move southward, he thought it likely that the enemy might turn down the Rappahannock to Fredericksburg. He sent warning to Jackson that such a move might require his immediate junction with Longstreet and he told him to be prepared to start on a moment's notice.77 The next day Stuart reported that the enemy seemed to be moving his right flank away from the mountains. Elsewhere there was no activity, but the Federal cavalry outposts were found along the Rappahannock River.78 The morning of the 14th brought no new developments, yet Lee was more than ever inclined to think the enemy's advance was down the river toward deep water and the Richmond, Fredericksburg and Potomac Railroad. Again he warned "Stonewall" that he must soon p430 be ready to start over the mountains.79 "We will endeavor to confuse and confound [the enemy] as much as our circumstances will permit," he told Jackson.80 Lee had at that time one regiment of cavalry, four companies of Mississippi infantry, and a battery at Fredericksburg, and he now ordered the commanding officer there to destroy the railroad between the point and Aquia, where the Federals had a landing-place directly off the Potomac. On the 15th, hearing that the enemy was beginning to move from Warrenton toward the Orange and Alexandria Railroad, Lee directed a second battery and a regiment of infantry to the Rappahannock town.81 Another day of suspense passed. Then, on the 17th, there were doubts in his mind for a few hours whether or not Fredericksburg was the enemy's goal;82 but while he weighed evidence and argued probabilities, scouts reported that three brigades of the Union infantry were moving against the city and that several Federal transports and gunboats had entered Aquia Creek.83

This virtually decided the question in Lee's mind. He gave orders for one division of Longstreet's corps to take the road toward Fredericksburg, and he determined to send the rest of the corps after it the next morning if the news of the Federal march was confirmed.84 Jeb Stuart undertook a forced reconnaissance across the Rappahannock on the 18th to see if the enemy had left Warrenton; Jackson was advised to move at least a part of the Second Corps to the mountains, preparatory to rejoining the main army; the leading division of Longstreet's command was ordered to continue its march toward Fredericksburg.85 The reserve artillery also was put on the road.86 It was a day of immense activity in the camps and at headquarters.

Lee had no desire to make a stand on the south bank of the Rappahannock at Fredericksburg. The position had no depth and was dominated by the heights on the north bank, which the enemy was certain to occupy. The Federal line of communications p431 was short. Strategically, it was far preferable to withdraw to the line of the North Anna, where the enemy's communications would be more extended and where, as Lee then believed, the nature of the ground would make a counterstroke possible.87 It was with this object in view that he ordered a division of Longstreet's corps, early on the 18th, to make for the North Anna.88 But during the day of the 18th one of his spies reported that the force advancing toward Fredericksburg consisted of Sumner's corps only. Lee decided that if no other force were moving to Fredericksburg he should endeavor to hold Sumner on the line of the Rappahannock until Burnside's purpose was disclosed. It might even be possible to surprise Sumner in an attempt to cross the river.89 The prudence of standing on the Rappahannock seemed the stronger when Jackson reported some movements of the enemy that suggested a possible advance from Harpers Ferry up the Shenandoah Valley.90 Most particularly, Lee decided to oppose Burnside on the Rappahannock because he could not afford to lose the supplies in the lower valley of that river or to open to the enemy territory south of Fredericksburg which the Federals had not previously pillaged.91

For these reasons the division that had been ordered to the North Anna was directed temporarily to take position midway between that river and Fredericksburg.92 The rest of Longstreet's corps was ordered to move for Fredericksburg on the 19th. The same day Lee broke up his headquarters at Culpeper and started to the new scene of action,93 confident that the enemy was preparing to advance via Fredericksburg on Richmond.94 At the instance of Jackson, who was hoping for the opportunity of a counterstroke in the Valley, Lee did not issue peremptory orders for the Second Corps to rejoin immediately, but he again cautioned Jackson to put himself in position to reinforce Longstreet whenever ordered to do so.95 Jackson's correspondence is missing from the Official Records, and consequently it is not possible p432 to say with assurance why he was so anxious to remain far down the Shenandoah Valley near Winchester in the face of Lee's repeated suggestions that he should retire up the Valley and rejoin the army. Apparently Jackson hoped that he might be able to repeat the manoeuvre of Second Manassas and to get in rear of the enemy. Lee had considered this possibility. Although he does not seem to have put great faith in it, he had withheld positive orders as long as possible.96 He was now beginning to shape a plan whereby Jackson would lay off the enemy's flank near Culpeper and discourage a southward move across the Rappahannock.

As Lee rode toward Fredericksburg, through the gloomy "Wilderness of Spottsylvania"º that was to be the scene of some of his bloodiest fighting, Burnside was hurrying his troops found by the roads on the opposite side of the Rappahannock. Lee, in fact, had anticipated the movements of his new opponent with a precision that was almost prescience. The transfer of Longstreet from Richmond to Gordonsville, while McClellan was preparing to reinforce Pope, was scarcely more remarkable. On the very day that Lee had first suspected the Army of the Potomac might shift by the left flank to Fredericksburg, General Burnside had been stubbornly arguing for such an advance in the face of the opposition of General Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Halleck, who had come to headquarters at Warrenton for a conference. On the 14th, when Lee had been strengthened in his belief that Fredericksburg was the enemy's objective, Burnside had been authorized to advance thither; the first units of Sumner's corps had started for Fredericksburg on the 15th, the very day on which Lee ordered the first small reinforcement there.97 With all the advantage that the initiative normally offers, the Federals had a start of only one day.98


The Author's Notes:

1 Pendleton, 228, 230.

[decorative delimiter]

2 O. R., 21, 1016.

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3 O. R., 19, part 2, pp623, 672 ff., 699‑700, 716; ibid., 21, 1018.

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4 O. R., 19, part 2, p646; O. R., 21, p568.

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5 Cf. Wolseley: "Officers have declared to me, that they have seen whole regiments go into action with smooth-bore muskets and without greatcoats, and known them in the evening to be well provided with everything — having changed their old muskets for rifles."

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6 O. R., 19, part 2, p718. These figures do not include Ransom's division, which was detached and made no report. Some men went as long as two months without shoes (cf. Richard Lewis to his mother, Nov. 20, 1862; Camp Life of a Confederate Boy, 35).

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7 John H. Lewis, 53‑54.

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8 See infra, p423.

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9 O. R., 19, part 2, pp642‑43, 647, 709, 716.

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10 O. R., 19, part 2, pp625, 629, 640, 656‑57, 679, 722.

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11 O. R., 19, part 2, pp625, 626 ff.

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12 O. R., 19, part 2, pp643, 657, 679; Welch, 34; 1 R. W. C. D., 168.

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13 O. R., 19, part 2, pp660, 674, 713.

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14 1 R. W. C. D., 187.

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15 O. R., 19, part 2, pp632, 646 ff., 656.

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16 O. R., 19, part 2, p712.

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17 O. R., 19, part 2, pp639, 683, 705.

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18 McCabe, 280.

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19 Lee wrote General Lewis T. Wigfall: "I rely upon those we have in all tight places, and fear I have to call upon them too often . . . with a few more such regiments as Hood now has, as an example of daring and bravery, I could feel much more confident of the campaign" (N. A. Davis, 114‑15). Despite an unfavorable inspection report of Hood's division (O. R., 19, part 2, p718), Lee was unwilling to disturb the command to give place to General W. H. C. Whiting, who had returned from furlough (O. R., 19, part 2, p681).

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20 O. R., 19, part 2, pp633‑34.

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21 O. R., 19, part 2, p645.

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22 O. R., 19, part 2, pp698‑99.

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23 O. R., 19, part 2, p643. Hill at the time was under charges of neglect of duty, preferred by Jackson, with whom Hill was at odds, precisely as he had been with Longstreet. Lee sought to allay this bad feeling and declined to bring Hill to trial (O. R., 19, part 2, p729 ff.) The "charges and specifications" have disappeared from the records.

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24 Taylor's Four Years, 147.

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25 O. R., 19, part 2, p643.

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26 Cf. T. R. R. Cobb, Oct. 9, 1862: "Let me but get away from these 'West Pointers.' . . . Never have I seen men who had so little appreciation of merit in others. Self-sufficiency and self-aggrandizement are their great controlling characteristics" (28 S. H. S. P., 297).

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27 III O. R., 2, p584.

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28 Long, 230. See infra, p496.

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29 Cf. A. P. Hill in his report on Fredericksburg, O. R., 21, 647: "The absence of straggling was remarkable. . . ."

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30 Memoir and Memorials, Elisha Franklin Paxton (cited hereafter as Paxton), 66. The quotation is from a letter to his wife.

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31 W. H. Taylor to his brother, Oct. 15, 1862, Taylor MSS.

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32 Wolseley, 21, 24.

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33 Polley: Hood's Texas Brigade, 239.

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34 R. E. Lee, Jr., 79.

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35 Mason, 148.

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36 O. R., 19, part 2, pp645, 654‑55.

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37 R. E. Lee, Jr., 79.

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38 Lee to Mrs. Lee, Oct. 26, 1862, R. E. Lee, Jr., 79‑80; Taylor's Four Years, 76.

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39 Oct. 26, 1862; 31 Confederate Veteran, 287.

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40 R. E. Lee, Jr., 80.

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41 O. R., 19, part 1, p69.

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42 O. R., 19, part 2, p623; Grayjackets, 176; Early, 163.

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43 O. R., 19, part 2, p627.

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44 O. R., 19, part 2, pp673‑75. This work was completed Oct. 23.

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45 O. R., 19, part 1, p152. The best map for this area is O. R. Atlas, Plate XXVII.

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46 1 von Borcke, 288; Wolseley, 20‑21.

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47 O. R., 19, part 2, p634; 1 R. W. C. D., 170, 174.

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48 O. R., 19, part 2, pp641, 644, 646.

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49 See his orders to Stuart in O. R., 19, part 2, p55. Cumberland Valley Railroad then had its southern terminus at Hagerstown.

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50 O. R., 19, part 2, p52 ff.; H. B. McClellan, 136 ff.; Thomason, 297 ff.

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51 O. R., 19, part 2, p51.

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52 O. R., 19, part 2, pp659, 662‑63, 669, 675, 680, 681, 682.

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53 O. R., 19, part 2, pp625‑26, 637‑38, 665, 666.

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54 Smithfield is about five miles west of Charlestown.

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55 O. R., 19, part 2, p670.

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56 O. R., 19, part 2, p82 ff.; 1 von Borcke, 309 ff.; B. W. Crowninshield: History of the First Massachusetts Cavalry, 83.

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57 Pendleton, 231.

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58 General Walker, assigned other duty, was relieved on Nov. 7 by Brigadier General Robert Ransom, Jr. (O. R., 19, part 2, pp703‑4).

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59 O. R., 19, part 2, pp675, 676, 678.

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60 To Charles Carter Lee; 31 Confederate Veteran, 287.

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61 From Culpeper, rail communications to the Virginia Central could be opened, as the destroyed bridge at Rappahannock station was replaced and ready for use on Oct. 1 (O. R., 19, part 2, p637).

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62 O. R., 19, part 2, pp685‑86, 687, 689.

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63 1 R. W. C. D., 179.

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64 French, 150.

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65 2 von Borcke, 61.

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66 O. R., 19, part 2, pp695, 696, 697, 698, 701‑2, 703, 704, 705, 710.

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67 O. R., 19, part 2, p701.

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68 O. R., 19, part 2, pp705‑6, 706‑7, 711; R. E. Lee to Custis Lee, Jones, L. and L., 199.

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69 O. R., 21, 83.

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70B. and L., 70; Longstreet, 291.

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71 Longstreet, 291.

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72 Mrs. McGuire, 170.

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73 T. R. R. Cobb in 28 S. H. S. P., 299.

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74 Cf. Recollections of John Gibbon, 96.

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75 O. R., 19, part 1, p87.

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76Meade, 324.

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77 O. R., 19, part 2, p715.

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78 O. R., 19, part 2, p716, 717.

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79 O. R., 19, part 2, pp717, 720, 721.

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80 O. R., 19, part 2, p721.

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81 O. R., 21, 1013, 1014, 1017.

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82 O. R., 21, 1014‑15.

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83 O. R., 21, 550.

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84 O. R., 21, 1016; ibid., 51, part 2, p646; Long, 234.

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85 Longstreet, 293; O. R., 21, p1019; ibid., 51, part 2, p647.

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86 O. R., 21, 1019.

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87 Cf. O. R., 21, 549; ibid., 51, part 2, 1021; Longstreet, 293. Subsequently Lee discovered that the position on the right bank of the North Anna was no better than that on the Rappahannock.

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88 O. R., 51, part 2, p648.

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89 Longstreet, 293.

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90 O. R., 21, 1017, 1018‑19.

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91 O. R., 21, 549.

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92 O. R., 51, part 2, p647.

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93 O. R., 21, 1020, 1021; ibid., 51, part 2, p648.

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94 O. R., 21, 1021.

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95 O. R., 21, 1021.

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96 2 Henderson, 297‑99.

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97 Sumner had started at daylight; Lee's orders were dated 7 P.M.

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98 For the timing of Burnside's movements, see O. R., 21, 83‑84.


Thayer's Note:

a General Joseph K. F. Mansfield: USMA, Class of 1822. For a brief biographical sketch and an annotated photograph of his tomb, see this page of the Civil War Monuments of Connecticut at the website of the Connecticut Historical Society.


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