Not infrequently, during the years following the war, General Lee's staff officers were under the embarrassing necessity of having to deny that some men who claimed to have served on the staff of Lee had ever done so. Occasionally, even now, the descendants of some Confederate officers mistakenly aver that their ancestors were members of the "official family" of Lee. In most instances these latter claims are based primarily on a misconception of the organization of the staff.
Occasionally during the war, and especially in a long list of appointments announced on November 2, 1863, the office of the adjutant and inspector general ordered a number of staff officers to "report to General Lee." The usual phrase, "for assignment to duty" seems to have been omitted. As a result, some have assumed that because these men were listed as assistant adjutants general, they were designated for the staff of General Lee. In reality, all of them were assigned to other staffs, most of them to the brigades.
Then, again, in emergencies, or when officers of high rank had been killed, General Lee occasionally attached temporarily to his staff men who had served with the corps staffs. It is difficult in some instances to say whether these men are entitled to be regarded as regular members of his staff.
The chief ground for advancing unfounded claims, however, is a confusion of the personal staff with the general staff. Besides his own immediate adjutants and aides, General Lee had, of course, a force of officers who would now be termed the "general staff." These men, in turn, had a varying number of assistants. In an official phrase, such officers were "attached to the headquarters of the Army of Northern Virginia," but they were not, in any true sense, members of the personal staff of the commanding general.
To make this confusion worse, General Lee himself did not draw p639 any line between his personal staff and the general staff until he assumed charge of the Army of Northern Virginia on June 1, 1862. Further, the general was opposed to large personal staffs as a waste of military material. He kept his own staff strictly within the law, and, on days of battle, pressed the bureau chiefs of the general staff into service as aides, as explained in Vol. II, page 489.
Finally, the assistant inspectors general occupied in some instances a position in Lee's military organization midway between the personal and the general staff, and are difficult to classify.
For these reasons it has seemed best to list the members of his staff separately for the five different periods of his command. The names have been sifted from those given by Long1 and by Talcott,2 supplemented by a detailed examination of all the names in the List of Staff Officers of the Confederate States Army, 1861‑1865, as issued by the editors of the Official Records in 1891, and, finally, from the numerous references in the Official Records themselves. It has not been possible to assign positive dates for the connection of all officers with his staff, as those in the List of Staff Officers are taken, in the main, from military papers signed by the individual officers. In many cases, officers were attached to the staff before and after the date of official documents now extant. Officers who had promotion while on staff duty are here listed with their final or highest rank, unless some special condition makes an explanation necessary.
Brigadier General R. S. Garnett, assistant adjutant general, who, during the brief period prior to his dispatch to the field, was more nearly a chief of staff to Lee than any other officer ever became.
Colonel John A. Washington, commissioned as aide de camp but soon acting as assistant adjutant general.
Colonel George A. Deas, who was assistant adjutant general and, after the departure of Garnett for western Virginia, acted as chief of staff.
Captain F. W. Smith, military secretary for a time in May, 1861.
These might be accounted the immediate personal staff of Lee during April-June, 1861.
In addition, he employed two naval aides for brief periods. They were:
p640 Lieutenant John M. Brooke of the Virginia Navy, one of the most brilliant of all Southern naval officers, and
Lieutenant Thomas R. Page, who was temporary "acting aide de camp."
Other officers attached to Lee's headquarters at this time and discharging certain personal staff duties as well as performing general staff work were:
Major Jos. R. Crenshaw, acting commissary general for Virginia.
Colonel, subsequently Major General, Harry Heth, acting quartermaster general for Virginia during May, 1861.
Colonel A. C. Myers, who assumed temporary duty as chief of the quartermaster's department of Virginia, May 31, 1861.
The other members of the incomplete general staff of Virginia were hardly associated enough with General Lee to be reckoned as staff officers.
Colonel Deas was left in charge of the office in Richmond when General Lee went to West Virginia. The only officers he took with him were Colonel Washington and Colonel Taylor. Colonel Washington was killed on September 13.3 This left Colonel Taylor as Lee's only personal staff officer. As Lee was not in direct command, he organized no general staff.
Colonel Walter H. Taylor went with Lee to South Carolina.
After his arrival, Lee named two assistant adjutants general. They were:
Major Thornton A. Washington and
Captain R. W. Memminger.4
He had three volunteer aides, as follows:
Captain Joseph Manigault,
Captain John M. Maffitt of the navy, and
Captain J. R. F. Tatnall of the marine corps.
The officers of the general staff, who were in close touch with him because of the smallness of the force were:
Lieutenant Colonel William G. Gill, ordnance officer,
Major, later Brigadier General, A. L. Long, chief of artillery, and
When General Lee returned from South Carolina in March, 1862, to act as military adviser to the President, a law was enacted6 providing that he should have a staff of one military secretary with rank of colonel, four aides ranking as major, and not more than four clerks.7 Lee told Taylor that he could either remain with the adjutant general's department or join him. Taylor chose to take the staff position.8 Lee thereupon designated this staff.
A. L. Long as military secretary.9
Walter H. Taylor,
T. M. R. Talcott, son of his old friend Andrew Talcott, and himself an engineer officer,
Charles S. Venable, and
Charles Marshall of Maryland.10
Major T. A. Washington was soon brought to Richmond from South Carolina and was assigned from the force of the adjutant general as assistant to Lee.11
After Lee succeeded General Joseph E. Johnston, June 1, 1862, he offered to retain General Johnston's staff officers. All of them elected to retire with their chief except Captain, later Lieutenant Colonel, A. P. Mason. He remained as an assistant adjutant general. On June 4 the War Department assigned Colonel R. H. Chilton of the regular army of the Confederacy to General Lee, who named him chief of staff.12 As Lee retained his former staff, his headquarters establishment until March, 1863, was as follows:
R. H. Chilton, chief of staff,
A. L. Long, military secretary, though often discharging many of the duties of chief of artillery,
p642 Walter H. Taylor, aide de camp but more than aide; after the early spring of 1863, first "acting" and then assistant adjutant general of the army,
Charles S. Venable, aide de camp, and devoting much time to inspections,
Charles Marshall, aide de camp and acting often as military secretary in the preparation of reports,
T. M. R. Talcott, aide de camp, but employed for engineering as well, and
A. P. Mason, assistant adjutant general.
This was the staff with which Lee fought his principal battles of 1862. Taylor, Venable, and Marshall remained with Lee to the end of the war, ate at his mess and rose to the well-deserved rank of lieutenant colonel.
The general staff, as reorganized after Lee assumed command of the Army of Northern Virginia, consisted of the following chiefs:
Lieutenant Colonel, later Brigadier General, E. Porter Alexander, chief of ordnance to November, 1862,
Lieutenant Colonel Briscoe G. Baldwin, chief of ordnance thereafter,
Lieutenant Colonel Robert G. Cole, chief commissary,
Lieutenant Colonel James L. Corley, chief quartermaster,
Surgeon Lafayette Guild, medical director,
Brigadier General W. N. Pendleton, chief of artillery, and
Major H. E. Young, judge advocate general.
All these officers except Alexander served on the general staff to the end of the war. On occasion, they performed duty as if they were members of the personal staff of the commanding general, but they were not regularly at headquarters and did not mess, as a rule, with the commanding general.
Captain Mason retired from Lee's staff in the spring of 1863 to rejoin Johnston. Colonel Chilton, in March, 1864, left the staff to resume service as a brigadier general, with the adjutant and inspector general. Talcott became colonel of the First Regiment of engineer troops, April 4, 1864. Lee did not immediately fill these vacancies. Instead, he used more frequently the members of the general staff already mentioned.
Major H. B. McClellan, after the death of Stuart, whose A. A. G. he had been, served for some months as an aide to General Lee.
Major Giles B. Cooke joined the personal staff in November, 1864, as assistant adjutant general and served regularly thereafter.
p643 Major H. E. Young, as the war progressed, came increasingly to serve as a member of the personal rather than of the general staff.
Major H. E. Peyton, though engaged much of his time in inspections, had a like distinction.
The following officers, also attached to headquarters, principally as assistant inspectors general, frequently acted in a more personal capacity for General Lee:
Lieutenant Colonel Edwin J. Harvie, June, 1862, subsequently joining General Johnston, with whom he had previously served.
Colonel George W. Lay, March, 1863.
Lieutenant Colonel Edward Murray, December 30, 1862, to August 31, 1863, and again in November, 1864.
General Lee did not always have an engineer officer attached to headquarters. The force of engineers was so small that the chief engineer of the Department of Northern Virginia sometimes had to direct the fortification of Richmond as well as the engineering of the army. When Lee was near Richmond he frequently utilised the services of the officers in the bureau of engineering. The following engineering officers were, however, frequently at headquarters, during the periods indicated:
Lieutenant Colonel William Proctor Smith, who was chief engineer in the summer of 1863.
Captain S. R. Johnston, who was with Lee during the Gettysburg campaign.
Major General M. L. Smith, who officially was chief engineer of the Army of Northern Virginia, from April 16, 1864, to approximately July 20, 1864.
Brigadier General W. H. Stevens, chief engineer during June-July, 1862, and from August, 1864, to the end of the war.
In addition, Major General Jeremy F. Gilmer, then colonel, was chief engineer of the Department of Northern Virginia from August 4, 1862, to October, 1862, when he became the brilliant chief of the engineer bureau of the War Department, but his duties kept him in Richmond most of the time.
There were, besides these, numerous assistants in the quartermaster, commissary, ordnance, and medical departments, many of them very efficient men. It is believed, however, that the names contained in this list are those, and all those, of the men who can be accounted either members of the personal staff of Lee or heads of the bureaus of the general staff.
1 Op. cit., 501‑2.
2 35 S. H. S. P., 255 ff.
5 The List of Staff Officers shows that Assistant Surgeon Samuel Muller and Surgeon J. A. Pleasants were assigned to Lee in South Carolina. It is believed that their services were with the troops, rather than at headquarters.
8 Taylor's General Lee, 42.
Images with borders lead to more information.
The thicker the border, the more information. (Details here.)
Robert E. Lee
A page or image on this site is in the public domain ONLY if its URL has a total of one *asterisk. If the URL has two **asterisks, the item is copyright someone else, and used by permission or fair use. If the URL has none the item is © Bill Thayer.
See my copyright page for details and contact information.
Page updated: 26 Jan 15