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  This webpage reproduces an appendix to Volume III 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.

 
This site is not affiliated with the US Military Academy.

Vol. III
p557
Appendix III-5

Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Beauregard's Call for Reinforcements, June 15, 1864

Colonel Samuel B. Paul's account of the interview with General Lee on June 15, 1864, regarding the reinforcement of Beauregard for the defense of Petersburg, appears in 2 Roman, 579‑81. Written in 1874, at the request of General Beauregard, the material passages read as follows:

"On the morning of Tuesday, June 14th, 1864, you sent for me to come to your headquarters — we were then at Dunlop's, on Swift Creek. . . . You detailed to me with some minuteness the evidence of a large increase of strength to the enemy immediately in your front, and stated that a considerable force had been thrown across the river to the south side of the James, below City Point, the mouth of the Appomattox. . . . After giving me these details of fact you directed Colonel Otey to have a statement made in detail of your force and its distribution on your lines; and ordered me to proceed with the same to General Lee, to place before him the facts of the situation, to express to him your conviction that the enemy would commence operations at Petersburg in a short time, and request that he should send you back Hoke's division, and aid you with such other forces as would be adequate to the gravity of the situation. The papers were finished in the Adjutant-General's office by about 2 A.M. on the morning of Wednesday, 15th, and I started to General Lee's headquarters. These were difficult to find, but I reached them about 12:30 o'clock, and saw Colonel Taylor, who secured me an interview with General Lee some half-hour afterwards. About 1 P.M. — my notes say — General Lee declined to permit me to open the papers, stating that he knew we were weak, but that we would simply have to accomplish all we could with what we had. At first I feared that I would be dismissed without further attention, and an intimation was made that I should return at once to you with that answer. The General seemed much preoccupied. I told p558 him that it was but a small part of my instructions to show him your weakness, the importance of your lines to his own safety, and the possibility of disaster to you, but to show the fact that attack was imminent. Gradually his interest seemed to increase, and he stated that he had ordered Hoke's division to rejoin you before my arrival. He then stated that you might rest assured that you were mistaken in supposing that the enemy had thrown any troops to the south side of the James River; that a few of Smith's corps had come back to your front — nothing more — and that it was probable the enemy would cross the James, though, he reiterated, no part of his force had yet done so, because he could nothing else, unless to withdraw altogether, as had been done by McClellan, which he did not believe General Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Grant thought of. He then said you might be assured that if you were seriously threatened he would send you aid, and, if needed, come himself. With some kind messages to you he then dismissed me."

This statement contains two errors and has one very important omission.

    1. Colonel Paul stated that Beauregard told him "on the morning of Tuesday, June 14th, 1864," at his headquarters at Dunlop's, that there was a large increase in the strength of the enemy on his front "and that a considerable force had been thrown across the river to the south side of the James, below City Point."1 The impression might be created by the words "thrown across" that General Beauregard knew at that time of the crossing of the James by a part of Grant's army. From this, the inference might be drawn that General Beauregard, in ordering Paul to confer with General Lee, intended to give notice to Lee that Grant's van was across the James. The facts justify no such inference. Birney's division of the II Corps, which led the movement across the James, did not begin to embark on the transports until 11:10 A.M. on the morning of June 14.2 The division landed at Windmill Point, eight miles by signal line below City Point. Beauregard, at Dunlop's "on the morning of June 14," could not have known of the arrival of Birney at Windmill Point. The first transports could hardly have arrived until early afternoon. Beauregard's telegrams to General Lee and to General Bragg on the 14th are confirmatory proof that when Beauregard talked with Paul he did not know that any part of the Army of the Potomac had crossed from the north side. On the contrary, all his appeals for troops on the 14th3 and until after 7 A.M. on the morning of June 154 were based on the theory, not that he was facing Butler and Grant, p559 but that he was confronting the whole of Butler's army, with the probability that Grant was to cross. The record will show that Beauregard had no certain knowledge until the morning of the 15th that any of Grant's troops were over the James. As Colonel Paul left at 2 A.M. on the 15th to visit Lee, he manifestly could not quote his chief in a matter of which his superior was not then informed. If, therefore, he told Lee that Grant was across the James, what he said was based on Beauregard's supposition of what would happen and not on any positive information of what had happened.

2. Colonel Paul was in error as to the time of his visit. He said that he interviewed General Lee at 1 P.M. on June 15. Lee's letter of 12:20 to Bragg5 shows that Paul had been to see him before that hour. This shows that Colonel Paul, though a man of high standing, is not to be accepted as a meticulous witness where the time element is involved. And the time of the different happenings is of the utmost importance in the record of the crossing of the James.

3. Colonel Paul nowhere mentioned that he told Lee, as the latter wrote Bragg an hour or so afterwards,6 that "the General [i.e., Beauregard] was of opinion that if he has his original force he would be able to hold his present lines in front of Gen. Butler and at Petersburg." Needless to say, this was an assurance of the utmost importance to Lee in disposing his troops. If he sent Beauregard on the 15th all the troops that Beauregard thought he would need to maintain his front, then, obviously, if those forces did not suffice, the error of judgment was Beauregard's, not Lee's. Reference was made to these facts more fully on page 442 ff.


The Author's Notes:

1 2 Roman, 579.

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2 O. R., 40, part 2, p316.

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3 O. R., 40, part 2, pp652‑53.

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4 Ibid., 653.

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5 Lee's Dispatches, 235.

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6 Lee's Dispatches, 235‑36.


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