Burnside's withdrawal across the Rappahannock left Lee in doubt as to the future intentions of his adversary, though he was satisfied that the Army of the Potomac would soon advance again.1 When a week passed without any movement by the enemy, he sent Stuart and 1800 of his cavalry to scout on the north side of the river, to assail the enemy's communications and to ascertain his dispositions.2
While Stuart was away, the army passed a bleak Christmas in such shelters as the men had been able to find on the heights and in the woods. Lee spent the forenoon in writing letters. "My heart," he told Mrs. Lee, "is filled with gratitude to Almighty God for His unspeakable mercies with which He has blessed us in this day, for those He has granted us from the beginning of life, and particularly for those He has vouchsafed us during the past year. What should have become of us without His crowning help and protection? Oh, if our people would only recognize it and cease from vain self-boasting and adulation, how strong would be my belief in final success and happiness to our country! But what a cruel thing is war; to separate and destroy families and friends, and mar the purest joys and happiness God has granted us in this world; to fill our hearts with hatred instead of love for our neighbors, and to devastate the fair face of this beautiful world! I pray that, on this day when only peace and good-will are preached to mankind, better thoughts may fill the hearts of our enemies and turn them to peace. . . ."3 To his daughter Mildred he wrote in less serious strain, with a touch of homesickness in his heart, but he concluded with the assurance, "I am . . . happy in the knowledge that p476 General Burnside and his army will not eat their promised Christmas dinner in Richmond today."4
For his own dinner he went by invitation to Jackson's headquarters, where the doughty "Stonewall" entertained him, Pendleton, and their staffs. Jackson had received many presents of food from admirers and was able to spread a sumptuous table, not forgetting to have his waiters appear in white aprons. This fastidious touch, in such a setting, appealed to Lee's sense of humor. Jackson and his lieutenants, he said, were playing at soldier. They must come and dine with him to see how real soldiers lived. His great lieutenant, of course, was both pleased and confused at Lee's comments.5
The last week in December passed uneventfully, except for fatigue duty in strengthening the fortifications on Marye's Heights.6 On the 29th, Lee executed the deed of manumission for the Custis slaves, taking pains to include all the Negroes he could remember.7 Two days later, on the last day of the year, he published to the army his congratulatory order on the outcome of the battle of Fredericksburg. In this he warned the men that new duties lay ahead. "The war is not yet ended," said he. "The enemy is still numerous and strong, and the country demands of the army a renewal of its heroic efforts in her behalf. Nobly has it responded to her call in the past, and she will never appeal in vain to its courage and patriotism. The signal manifestations of Divine mercy that have distinguished the eventful and glorious campaign of the year just closing give assurance of hope that, under the guidance of the same Almighty hand, the coming year will be no less fruitful of events that will insure the safety, peace and happiness of our beloved country, and add new lustre to the already imperishable name of the Army of Northern Virginia." This final flourish showed the hand of Major Charles Marshall rather than that of Lee.8
The year had, indeed, been one of victory in Virginia, at least during the seven months Lee had commanded the army. Port Republic, p477 Cross Keys, Mechanicsville, Gaines's Mill, Savage Station, Frayser's Farm, Malvern Hill, Cedar Mountain, Second Manassas, Boonsboro, Harpers Ferry, Sharpsburg, and Fredericksburg — thirteen battles great and small — had been fought during that time, and the Confederates had remained masters of the field in every instance except at Boonsboro and at Sharpsburg. Leaving out of account the actions at Cross Keys, Port Republic, and Cedar Mountain, which were tactically Jackson's though Lee had a part in the general strategy, the troops under Lee's command had this account of gains and losses: They had sustained 48,171 casualties and had inflicted 70,725.9 They had taken from the enemy approximately 75,000 small arms and had yielded scarcely more than 6000. With the loss of 8 cannon, they had secured 155. The infantry practically had been rearmed with improved, captured rifles, and half the batteries boasted superior ordnance that had belonged to the Army of the Potomac.
The morale of the Army of Northern Virginia was vastly higher than it had been when Lee took command, yet there was a consciousness in the ranks, though not in the Richmond executive offices, of the persistent, determined spirit of an enemy who could replace every fallen soldier, make good every captured arm, and supply every necessity of the Army of the Potomac from ample manufactories and open ports. Richmond was fearful of military defeat but refused to admit the inevitable consequences of economic attrition. The Army of Northern Virginia was confident of victory in the field but fearful of economic disaster behind the lines. Before the winter was to end, the danger of starvation and of immobility, resulting from a collapse of transportation, was to be plain to every private in the ranks.
The improvement in organization wrought after July was amazing. Gone were the excitable Magruder, the slow Huger, the gloomy Whiting, and the deaf Holmes. Gone was the cumbersome old arrangement of divisions, operating as if they had been independent armies. In its place were two well-administered corps, commanded by officers of proved capacity. The divisions and brigades were becoming conscious of their relation to the military machine, and were led, in most instances, by men who relied p478 on sound tactics and good discipline, rather than on the costly valor of untrained soldiers. Fifteen of the brigadier generals who had entered the Seven Days's Battle with Lee were no longer present to issue his congratulatory order to their men on the last day of 1862. Some of the best of the fifteen had been killed, notably Garland, Gregg, and Winder, but the incompetents had in part been supplanted and the political generals had been sent elsewhere — and all so quietly, so tactfully, that few realized how the army had been transformed by the time the men tumbled out of their blankets and wished one another a Happy New Year at roll-call on the morning of January 1, 1863.
Stuart came back from his raid that first day of the month, bringing with him about 200 prisoners and some plunder. He had stories of gallant encounters near Dumfries and around Occoquan to tell, but he had no definite news of the enemy's dispositions or plans.10 Uninformed, in the midst of bitter weather,11 Lee had to await the next move of his adversary and, meantime, had to give serious thought to the threatened development of a new attack in North Carolina. The Federals had, at that time, a small force at Suffolk, Va., •sixteen miles west of Norfolk, and an army of unknown strength in eastern North Carolina. On December 11, 1862, Major General John G. Foster, Federal commander of the Department of North Carolina, had left New Berne with 10,000 troops and had occupied Kinston on the 14th. After driving back a small opposing Confederate force, he had pushed on to Goldsboro, which he reached on the 17th. He had burned an important railroad bridge on the Weldon and Wilmington line and had torn up •four miles of track. Although he had retreated promptly to New Berne,12 his raid had created profound apprehension not only in eastern North Carolina but in Richmond as well. It was feared that he might cut the communications between the capital and the south, and, if reinforced, might move on Richmond from the south. There was a suspicion, also, that the operations against Goldsboro were a feint and that the main objective might be Wilmington.13 This was Lee's opinion.14
To afford immediate protection, he started Ransom's division p479 southward on January 3 and decided to place Major General D. H. Hill at the disposal of the government in rallying the people of North Carolina.15 There was a demand that Lee visit the state to study the enemy's movements,16 but he did not feel that he could leave the Rappahannock until General Burnside's intentions were more fully disclosed. In case Burnside retired, he believed it would be practicable to send part of his army to North Carolina and, with the rest, to clear the Valley of Virginia, where he hadºconsolidated the command under Brigadier General W. E. Jones, who had one brigade of cavalry.17
On January 14, Lee ordered D. H. Hill to Richmond,18 and on the 16th he went there in person, at Mr. Davis's request, to confer on the situation.19 He found the administration concerned over the immediate outlook but confident that the war should soon be won, an optimistic delusion he did not share.20 At the instance of the President, he agreed to detach two brigades for service in North Carolina.21
Before any further decision was reached, Lee was hurriedly recalled to Fredericksburg by the news that Burnside's army was on the move and seemed to be threatening to cross the Rappahannock.22 When he reached headquarters on the 18th, Lee found Jackson and Longstreet at odds concerning the disposition of the army for the expected attack.23 Quickly settling this, he spent two busy days riding to the left and to the right of the line, and concluded, in the end, that the enemy's effort would be on the upper Rappahannock, above Fredericksburg.24 Meantime, of necessity, he had suspended the movement of the two brigades that were to be sent to North Carolina, though he assured Mr. Davis that he would dispatch them if the President thought there was greater need of them in North Carolina than with the Army of Northern Virginia — a position he always assumed when calls were made on him for troops.25
Signs multiplied by January 20 that the enemy again was preparing to adventure across the Rappahannock.26 In a heavy rain, p480 the shivering Confederate troops remained on the alert. Lee himself was anxious about the enemy's movements and was not hopeful that he would be able to prevent a crossing at some point on his long, exposed line. In case Burnside eluded him he would hold to his plan of withdrawing toward the North Anna in order to reconcentrate his army, a course that Mr. Davis was anxious that he avoid if possible.27 Two days, three days passed without action. There were new signs of activity below Fredericksburg,28 and then once more above the city.29 At length, following a heavy snow storm on January 27‑29,30 all Federal activity ended, and Lee concluded that because of the weather or for other reasons, Burnside's attempt had been frustrated.31 He was correct. The Federal commander had contemplated a general offensive, but had found the roads so nearly bottomless that his advance had degenerated into what his disgusted army styled a "Mud March."32
During the five weeks that had separated the beginning of the "Mud March" from Burnside's defeat at Fredericksburg, Lee had been fortifying the entire front of the Rappahannock.33 After the "Mud March" he had this work continued on the whole line of •twenty-five miles from Banks's Ford to Port Royal.34 "The world has never seen such a fortified position," one enthusiastic artillerist wrote after the system of defense had been completed. "The famous lines at Torres Vedras could not compare with them. . . . They follow the contour of the ground and hug the bases of the hills as they wind to and from the river, thus giving natural flanking arrangements, and from the tops of the hills frown the redoubts for sunken batteries and barbette batteries ad libitum — far exceeding the number of our guns; while occasionally, where the trenches take straight across the flats, a redoubt stands out defiantly in the open plain to receive our howitzers. . . ."35 These fortifications marked a definite stage in the evolution of the field defenses that were to be one of Lee's most historic contributions p481 to the science of war. The ease with which some of the Fredericksburg defenses were thrown up and the adequacy of the cover they afforded the army were not forgotten. From this type of work there was only one step to field fortification.
While the dirt was flying and the lines were daily growing stronger, Lee was warning an overconfident administration that the next few months might be decisive. "The enemy," he said, "will make every effort to crush us between now and June, and it will require all our strength to resist him."36 He renewed his perennial appeal for the completion of the Richmond defenses;37 he had the line of the North Anna examined by officers, who reported against a prolonged defense there;38 he exhausted his arguments and almost exhausted his patience in trying to end wasteful details and to bring men into the ranks.39 At no time during the war was his language more vigorous. "More than once," he wrote the Secretary of War, "have most promising opportunities been lost for want of men to take advantage of them, and victory itself has been made to put on the appearance of defeat because our diminished and exhausted troops have been unable to renew a successful struggle against fresh numbers of the enemy. The lives of our soldiers are too precious to be sacrificed in the attainment of successes that inflict no loss upon the enemy beyond the actual loss in battle. . . . In view of the vast increase of the forces of the enemy, of the savage and brutal policy he has proclaimed,40 which leaves us no alternative but success or degradation worse than death, if we would save the honor of our families from pollution, our social system from destruction, let every effort be made, every means be employed, to fill and maintain the ranks of our armies, until God, in His mercy, shall bless us with the establishment of our independence."41 Congress's failure to act aroused to indignation even a nature that had been disciplined from boyhood to respect civil authority. "Our salvation will depend on the next four months," he said prophetically, "and yet I cannot get even regular promotions made to fill vacancies in regiments, while Congress seems to be laboring to pass laws to get easy places for some favorites p482 or constituents, or get others out of active service. I shall feel very much obliged if they will pass a law relieving me from all duty and legislating some one in my place, better able to do it."42 Again he wrote hotly: "What has our Congress done to meet the exigency, I may say extremity, in which we are placed? As far as I know, concocted bills to excuse a certain class of men from service, and to transfer another class in service, out of active service, where they hope never to do service."43
Regardless of the remissness of the lawmakers, Lee's apprehension of a new crisis kept him from resting, inactive, behind his cavalry outposts, which were extended by this time from Beverley's Ford on the upper Rappahannock far down the river to the watershed between the Rappahannock and the Pamunkey.44 With the energy that always surged under his calm exterior, he now turned his attention to General R. H. Milroy. That officer, or some one misusing his name, was putting into effect in parts of western Virginia a system of organized blackmail, almost unique in character. Southern sympathizers were notified that loss had been inflicted on Union supporters and that an assessment had been levied against them to make this good. Formal notice of the assessment was accompanied by extracts from an official order of General Milroy, announcing that if the recipient did not pay, his house was to be burned, his property seized, and himself shot. Under this arbitrary system, it was believed that $6000 had been wrung from Southern sympathizers in Tucker County alone.45 In addition, General Milroy had issued an order requiring all citizens to notify him of the approach of Confederate troops on pain of death and the destruction of their houses.46 General Lee had protested to General Halleck against these orders, which Halleck had disavowed,47 but Lee was anxious that the author of such threats be driven from Virginia.48 From Confederates there came complaints that Brigadier General W. E. Jones, whom Lee had named to command in the Valley, had not been active in dealing p483 with Milroy's raiders.49 Lee had defended Jones, whose difficulties he understood,50 and he now resolved to detach Fitz Lee's brigade of cavalry to reinforce Jones for an attack on Milroy.51
Just at the time when this expedition was moving through the mud toward the Valley on February 14, a fleet of Federal transports, loaded with men, steamed down the Potomac. The troops were suspected to be the IX Corps and their probable destination, Lee thought, was Charleston, where he now expected the next Federal blow to fall, instead of at Wilmington.52 There was, however, probability that the destination might be southeastern Virginia and the objective Richmond or the railroad leading to it from the south. Lee had already discussed with the President the advisability of sending troops to the exposed railway line of communications through North Carolina,53 and on call from Richmond he now ordered Pickett with his division of the First Corps to start for Richmond on the 15th. Hood was put on the alert to follow Pickett.54 Not knowing whether the Federal movement presaged a change of base, Lee directed Stuart to make a reconnaissance when the column intended for the Valley reached Culpeper. If Stuart then discovered signs of any general retirement of the Federals, he was to operate at once on their lines of communication and was to suspend the expedition into the Shenandoah area.55
As reports immediately indicated a concentration at Newport News, Lee ordered Hood to follow Pickett to Richmond, and, after he was informed, on the 17th, that a third corps was moving down the Potomac, he directed Longstreet to proceed southward and take command of the two detached divisions. He left the disposition of these troops to the War Department, but he directed them temporarily to camp near Richmond until the plan of the enemy should be more fully disclosed.56
The departure of Longstreet left Lee with a total force not exceeding 62,600 officers and men, of whom only 58,800 were on the p484 line of the Rappahannock.57 Yet Lee's chief regret was that he could not take the offensive against the diminished Federal command opposing him. He wrote the President: ". . . the most lamentable part of the present condition of things is the impossibility of attacking them with any prospect of advantage. The rivers and streams are all swollen beyond fording; we have no bridges, and the roads are in a liquid state and nearly impracticable. In addition, our horses and mules are in that reduced state that the labor and exposure incident to an attack would result in their destruction, and leave us destitute of the means of transportation."58
General Joseph Hooker had now replaced General Burnside in command of the Army of the Potomac — a change that Lee accepted with complacency. In his personal letters he jested mildly over the apparent inability of Hooker to determine on a course of action. "General Hooker is obliged to do something," he wrote one of his daughters on February 6. "I do not know what it will be. He is playing the Chinese game, trying what frightening will do. He runs out his guns, starts wagons and troops up and down the river, and creates an excitement generally. Our men look on in wonder, give a cheer, and all again subsides in statu quo ante bellum."59 Later in the month, when •a foot of snow brought new hardship to the men, he complained to Mrs. Lee, "I owe Mr. F[ighting] J[oe] Hooker no thanks for keeping me here. He ought to have made up his mind what to do."60
THREE OF THE DAUGHTERS OF GENERAL LEECentre: Mary Custis, the General's eldest daughter; left: Agnes, the third daughter; right: Mildred, the youngest. No well-authenticated picture of Annie, the second daughter, is known to exist.
From photographs, now in the Confederate Museum, Richmond, taken shortly after the War between the States.
By February 26, Lee concluded that Hooker had decided to do nothing on a large scale until the weather improved.61 Rest in winter quarters became more of a reality, though the army was not free of all activity. Lee held to his rule not to embarrass private families by crowding himself and his staff into nearby homes.62 He usually camped near Longstreet in order to hasten the movements of that leisurely general,63 and after Longstreet left for southside Virginia, he remained in the little clearing in the woods p485 on the Mine Road to Hamilton's Crossing.64 His tents were few in number and had nothing to indicate that they were the headquarters of an army, except for a flag in front of the tent of Major Taylor.65 The wagons stood unparked; the horses were tethered in good weather or sheltered in crude bowers against the storms. No sentinel stood at Lee's tent except when he was engaged.66 Inside were his Spartan camp equipment, his military desk, and a small stove. His most frequent guest was a hen that requited his hospitality by laying an egg regularly under his cot.67 Other guests of different species were numerous. Robert came more frequently than before, bringing reports, for he had been promoted lieutenant and had become aide to Rooney, his brother. As the brigade he commanded was usually at a distance, Rooney came rarely.68 The sons and other guests, formal and familiar, were entertained occasionally at dinner, but with no pretense of a well-furnished table. In December, 1862, when Lord Hartington, Colonel Leslie, and Francis Lawley of The London Times had been delayed by Jackson's hospitality and had arrived at Lee's quarters long after the hour set for a repast in their honor, they found that the General had finished his simple meal and was relieved, rather than fretted, because they had come late. "Gentlemen," he said, "I hope Jackson has given you a good dinner, and if so, I am very glad things have turned out as they have, for I had given the invitation without knowing the poor state of my mess provisions, and should scarcely have been able to offer you anything."69
Whether entertaining or visiting, inspecting or in council, Lee sought during that stern winter to set an example of good cheer and to keep high the spirits of his lieutenants. From no other period of the war have so many diverting stories survived. He was very fond of teasing his messmates and the handsome young officers whom he met on his rounds.70 Once, in the fall, when he had heard Stuart's famous banjo player, Sweeny, amusing a company of p486 officers in front of his tent, he had come out to express his thanks, and had observed a jug of liquor sitting rather conspicuously on a boulder. "Gentlemen," he had said, "am I to thank General Stuart or the jug for this fine music?"71 One day, a little later, when a similar vessel had been observed in his own tent, he had come out to ask his staff if they would "like a glass of something." Willingly and expectantly they followed him inside. He had his mess steward, Bryan, place glasses on the table, and then he told them to serve the officers. Bryan obediently pulled the cork, while lips were smacked expectantly. With the air of one who might have been dispensing a king's best Burgundy, he solemnly poured out to each a glass — of buttermilk.72 Complaints of hard living he turned off with a jest. When a young officer protested that the biscuits were unconscionably tough, Lee looked at him reassuringly. "You ought not to mind that," he said, "they will stick by you the longer."73 Major von Borcke, of Stuart's staff, had been compelled, after Fredericksburg, to buy a carriage in order to get a span of horses he had admired. Being thrifty, von Borcke sought to make the carriage do duty as a baggage wagon. Lee rarely met the German Goliath that he did not ask, "Major, where's your carriage?" A little later, when von Borcke chanced to be with him while a minor engagement was in progress, Lee remarked dryly, "If we only had your carriage, what a splendid opportunity to charge the enemy with it!"74 Hood was another with whom Lee liked to joke. From his nearby camp, Hood called one day when the General chanced to be talking with Colonel Chilton about the depredations of the soldiers in burning fence rails and stealing pigs. Hood, somewhat self-righteously, felt called upon to defend his division against such a charge. Lee let him finish, and then he said, "Ah, General Hood, when you Texans come about, the chickens have to roost mighty high."75
It was Jackson, however, that Lee, in common with Jeb Stuart and Longstreet, was most prone to tease. Going to the vicinity of Hayfield with Jackson, he called on its mistress, his kinswoman, Mrs. W. P. Taylor. Two young ladies were present with Mr. and p487 Mrs. Taylor to welcome him and his companions. Lee announced that he had brought his great generals along for the young ladies to see and had allowed the young officers to come along in order that they might see the ladies. To Mrs. Taylor he confided in that officer's presence, that Jackson was one of the most cruel and inhuman of men. At the battle of Fredericksburg, he went on, it had been all he could do to keep Jackson "from putting bayonets on the guns of his men and driving all those people into the river." Mrs. Taylor forthrightly answered that she had always heard that General Jackson was a good Christian man, and that she hoped if "those people" ever crossed at Hayfield, General Lee would not do anything to keep Jackson from driving them back.76
One of the little children at a river plantation sometimes visited by Lee considered him her confidant. She would always come up to kiss him and at last whispered to him that she wanted to kiss General Jackson, too. When Lee repeated this, "Stonewall" was as much confused as if a dazzling Richmond belle had threatened to embrace him. On another visit, when the same little girl came up to greet him, Lee suggested that she would show better taste if she kissed one of the younger officers. "There is the handsome Major Pelham," he said, pointing to Stuart's renowned young artillerist, who blushed in a manner to rival Jackson.77
Much as Lee delighted to tease his comrades, he was sensitive to their hardships and unfailing in his consideration for them. Stuart's staff had not forgotten how sympathetically he had talked with Mrs. Stuart in November when he had heard of the loss of her little boy,78 and almost every officer had some special kindness to cherish. In the midst of a snow storm, answering a summons from Lee, Jackson rode over one night, accompanied by an aide, Captain J. P. Smith. Lee was almost angry that Jackson had exposed himself and Smith to the rigors of the weather when nothing would have been lost by waiting until the storm was over. After Jackson had gone with him into his tent, Lee came out several times to be sure that his staff officers were making Captain Smith comfortable.79
p488 Stuart was a constant concern to Lee because his reckless courage led him to expose himself needlessly. Lee depended on him more than on any one else for information as to the enemy's movements; no other officer seemed to have quite the same ability to peer at a distant column from a hilltop, and to say how strong it was and whither it was bound. Such a man was irreplaceable, and Lee knewº it. Often he ended official letters to Stuart with warnings against unnecessary risks. A characteristic conclusion to his orders for a hazardous enterprise was "Commending you to a kindly Providence and your own good judgment. . . ."80
Lee's own staff officers shared his sympathy precisely as they had to endure his teasing. One of their number was not especially diligent, and his disposition to take his duties lightly increased the labor of the others. Occasionally some of them felt that the General was inclined to put the burden on those who would bear it and to allow the shirker to go unrebuked. Lee's known aversion to spending time over routine official papers occasionally created unpleasant situations. During the autumn before Fredericksburg, Major Taylor had come into Lee's tent when the General had been in a bad humor. Before the work had fairly begun, Lee had been jerking his head and neck in the familiar manner that showed rising anger. Taylor petulantly had thrown the paper down at his side and had silently defied his chief. Instantly Lee had gripped himself and in perfect calmness, with measured tones had said, "Major Taylor, when I lose my temper, don't let it make you angry."81
There was much to do at winter quarters besides keeping the officers in good spirits. Correspondence was heavy. Lee not only wrote out in person most of his confidential dispatches,82 but also penned many brief papers to save the time and labor of others. He acknowledged in his autograph every present sent him, from a mattress83 to a prayer book.84 With pains and sympathy, he addressed, besides, numerous friends whose kinsmen had fallen in the army. One such letter from Hamilton's Crossing was to his old companion, Doctor Orlando Fairfax, whose magnificent young p489 son had fallen at Fredericksburg, a private in the ranks.85 Another similar letter went to Howell Cobb on the death of the brother who had commanded in the sunken road at Marye's Heights. Still a third was sent to Governor F. W. Pickens of South Carolina on the loss of General Gregg. "The death of such a man," Lee said, "is a costly sacrifice, for it is to men of his high integrity and commanding intellect that the country must look to give character to her councils, that she may be respected and honored by all nations."86
The never-ending tasks of reorganization likewise consumed much time in winter quarters. The campaigns of 1862 had developed some friction between Jackson and Lee's headquarters staff87 and had shown a number of weaknesses in the law governing staff organization. The chairman of the Senate committee on military affairs, which was seeking to amend the act, wrote Lee to ask his opinion of the proposed legislation. Lee answered in detail and, knowing the sensitiveness of the President, took care to outline to him in a separate letter his views of the necessary changes. He did not attempt to draw a legal line between the general staff and the personal staff of officers in the field. Instead, he explained that the aides of a general officer need not be numerous, as the general staff could usually assist on the field of battle, when the duties of the aides were heaviest. At other times, the officers of the general staff were busier than a general's aides. His main insistence was twofold. First he argued for equality of rank for the heads of the various staff bureaus serving with a given army unit. Each division of the staff, he argued, in the second place, should be "a complete organization in itself, so that it can manoeuvre independently of the corps or division to which it is habitually attached and be attached with promptness and facility when required. . . . If you can then fill these positions with proper officers, not the relatives and social friends of the commanders, who, however agreeable their company, are not always the most useful, you might hope to have the finest army in the world."88 p490 The legislation, which was shaped substantially as Lee recommended, was not adopted until June, 1864,89 but as far as existing statutes permitted, Lee anticipated it and proceeded to reorganize the army staff during the winter of 1862‑63.90 The benefits were soon observable, though he did not succeed in destroying the nests of nepotism that some of the civilization and brigade commanders had established at their headquarters.
The artillery was reorganized along with the staff. Lee had long doubted the wisdom of attaching batteries permanently to the smaller units, and in February, 1863, he had General Pendleton work out a plan for the establishment of artillery battalions of four batteries each. These battalions were to be assigned to the corps, not to the brigades or to the divisions, and were to be employed as needed. The general reserve was to be reduced to six batteries. At the head of the whole force, which amounted to 264 guns,91 was to be an army chief of artillery reporting directly to the commanding general. Over the battalions attached to each corps was to be a chief of artillery for that corps. A much-emphasized feature of the plan was the provision of two field officers for each battalion, one a lieutenant colonel and the other a major. Lee assumed that one of these officers would be busy in the general direction of the unit, and that the other would be needed to place the guns. As he explained to President Davis, "If you do not have an officer of judgment and experience to send for which [to] select the position, prepare the way, etc., the captains have to leave their batteries or lead them blindly forward. A captain should always be with his battery."92 The plan was approved, and the choice of men was debated with much care and not without some heat on Jackson's part. A new statute, enacted to facilitate the reorganization, allowed a brigadier general for each eighty guns, or three for the army. Lee was not satisfied that his friend Pendleton had all the qualifications for army chief of artillery. Instead, he recommended that General Arnold Elzey, if his health and habits permitted, should be chief, that Pendleton should become head of the artillery of the Second Corps, and that Colonel A. L. Long of p491 his staff, who had shown great skill in handling ordnance, should be promoted chief of artillery of Longstreet's corps, though he recognized the difficulties involved in promoting a staff officer to that position.93 The President preferred not to disturb the existing assignments and deferred action on the selection of three brigadier generals for the artillery. The battalion organization, however, became effective before the opening of the campaign of 1863. The management of the artillery arm was much improved by the change.94 The exchange of six-pounder guns for new twelve-pounders,• in accordance with a plan of recasting that Lee had formulated in the autumn of 1862, also contributed much to improve the artillery.95
Far more serious than reorganization of staff and gunners was the shortage of horses and the danger that lack of forage would cause the death of many of those that had survived the long campaign from Mechanicsville to Fredericksburg. Every horse with the army had to be conserved and additional animals had to be provided, because the heavier cannon would demand larger teams.96 The spectre of a paralyzing shortage of horses was already haunting the mind of Lee. He mentioned the condition of the animals as one of the chief reasons why he could not take the offensive after the detachment of troops from the Army of the Potomac in February,97 and from the labor he expended in trying to save the army's horses during the winter of 1862‑63, there can be little doubt that even then he saw in the prospective failure of the horse supply one of the most serious obstacles to the establishment of Southern independence. Some 600 or 700 mules had been purchased in the Trans-Mississippi Department and were being wintered at Alexandria, La.98 Four hundred artillery horses had been procured in Georgia but had not been brought nearer than North Carolina, because they could not be foraged with the army.99 These were all that could be counted upon to supplement the gaunt and jaded animals with the trains, except, of course, for such additional horses as could be picked up in the unplundered sections p492 of nearby states. The country immediately adjacent to the army had been so completely swept of fodder that as soon as the first threat of a new offensive had passed after the battle of Fredericksburg, he had ordered the whole of the artillery to the rear, except twelve batteries.100 All the draught horses that could possibly be spared thereafter were sent back from the Rappahannock, some of them as far south as Brunswick County, which lies on the North Carolina border.101 When Pickett and Hood went to Richmond, Lee was so fearful the artillery horses would break down that he suggested the guns be forwarded by train and the animals be led through the country.102 The quartermaster of the artillery scoured the line of the Virginia Central for fodder and grain,103 to increase the limited supply brought by rail from Richmond.104 Rooney Lee's cavalry brigade was foraged miles from the right of the line, in Essex and Middlesex Counties, though it had to get its meat from the Northern Neck counties across the Rappahannock.105 The transportation of the army was reduced to the absolute minimum,106 but even then it was admitted that many of the horses would have to suffer.107 As the late spring held back the grass,108 Lee was compelled on April 6, when the advance of the enemy was only a matter of days, to warn Pendleton not to bring up his teams from the south more rapidly than he could find feed for them.109
The danger to the cavalry from the shortage of feed was every whit as serious as the threatened paralysis of the artillery. The army would be feeble without artillery but it would be blind without cavalry. The superiority of the Confederate mounted forces, a potent factor in the operations of 1862, was not only challenged, but was in danger of being lost completely. Hampton had been detached and sent southward to recruit, primarily because his horses could not remain with the main army and be supplied.110 The position of W. E. Jones and that of Rooney Lee p493 have been described. Fitz Lee, who contrived to subsist his men and horses where Hampton's had been in danger of starvation, covered the left flank of the army from the Blue Ridge to the Rapidan.111 These two brigades were all that Lee had with him during the late winter. Repeatedly through the dark months, by letter and in person, he asked for reinforcements, and as the time for the opening of the campaign approached, he besought the President to find him two more brigades,112 though he could not graze their mounts and therefore could not order them up until the spring opened, even if they were made available.
Tragic as it was to see the faithful animals of the army die for lack of forage, and bitter as were the unescapable reflections of Lee on what might happen the next winter, he had daily to face a worse condition in the hunger of his own men. Provisions came to the Rappahannock from Richmond by a single-track railroad that was far from regular in its delivery of cars.113 The nearby country supplied almost nothing. Because of the condition of the horses, only a limited number of wagons could be sent into distant counties to collect provisions there.114 As early as January 5, Lee doubted whether starvation might not prove a more potent foe than the Army of the Potomac,115 and thereafter he had to resort to every expedient to keep even a few days ahead of actual hunger in the ranks.116 Colonel Cole, the chief commissary, went to Richmond to plead with the authorities and brought back many promises but no provisions.117 Such beeves as were sent forward were generally so thin that Lee had to ask that they be kept to fatten in the spring, and that salt meat be issued instead.118 Cavalry were used to supplement the government agents in collecting cattle; the commander of a proposed expedition to cut the B. & O. Railroad was told that the meat he might bring back was as important as the damage he might inflict;119 wagons were furnished to haul to the railroad the wheat purchased by the commissary;120 appeals to the public were urged on the President by p494 Lee;121 the dispatch of men to collect grain along the James River and Kanawha Canal was suggested;122 the War Department was importuned to send men southward along the railroads to hasten the movement of supply trains;123 a report that there was beef in Florida was instantly hurried to the President.124
Scurvy began to appear; at the first signs of spring in the woods the soldiers were sent out to collect sassafras buds, onions, and other wild vegetation.125 Vigorous warning was issued that the men must not damage growing crops on which their subsistence might depend.126 At a time when 100 cars of sugar, intended for the army, were reported to have stood more than a fortnight on sidings in North Carolina, the soldiers went without that item of food for ten days. "Their ration," Lee wrote Seddon, ". . . consists of one-fourth pound of bacon, 18 ounces of flour, 10 pounds of rice to each 100 men about every third day, with some few peas and a small amount of dried fruit occasionally as they can be obtained. This may give existence to the troops while idle, but will certainly cause them to break down when called upon for exertion."127 This was only two weeks before the beginning of the Chancellorsville campaign. Still later, when any day, any hour, might see the Federals on the move, Lee had to write the secretary, "I am painfully anxious lest the spirit and efficiency of the men should become impaired, and they be rendered unable to sustain their former reputation, or perform the service necessary for our safety."128
Lee's appeals and warnings alike failed to do more than to keep the army alive. Admitting that the shortage of food was due chiefly to a lack of railroad transportation, or to the right use of it,129 Mr. Seddon was unable to overcome the gloomy contrariness of the commissary general, Colonel L. B. Northrop. This strange man, though he had the full confidence of Mr. Davis, had the singular faculty of keeping every army commander in a state of constant indignation. He is, in fact, one of the few functionaries of the period whose letters, read after seventy years, irritate if they do not actually outrage the historian. Convinced that his own p495 methods were right and were thwarted by the stupidity or opposition of the generals in the field, he took refuge in interminable letters of explanation when he was asked why the army was starving. He seemed satisfied if he could demonstrate that he was on record as predicting what had come to pass. By his own enigmatic code, he had rather be consistent than efficient. Lee corresponded with him no more frequently than necessity compelled, but he was angered by the mismanagement against ever-mounting odds. Northrop, for his part, had a grudge against Lee, first because the General would not reduce the army ration as Northrop desired and, secondly, because Lee had failed to accord an interview to a civilian whom Northrop had sent to his headquarters with a scheme for collecting supplies by utilizing the transportation of the army. Whatever the dereliction of which he was accused, no matter how desperate the plight of the Army of Northern Virginia, Northrop rarely failed to hark back to one or the other of his grievances against Lee. The months brought no better understanding.130 Any experienced soldier could see by this time that war-weariness and the unhindered misdirection of an essential bureau by such a man as Northrop, regardless of other factors, might ultimately bring defeat at the hands of a stronger adversary. In Lee's letters of the winter of 1862‑63 there is, however, not a hint that he knew he was championing a hopeless cause. Doubtless he shut his mind to speculation on the outcome and sought simply to do his duty while leaving the rest to God.
The cruel shortage of provisions was sharpened by the severities of an unusually bleak and frigid winter.131 For a part of the men blankets were lacking even in January. Shoes were bad, especially those of English manufacture.132 Yet the men somehow contrived to keep from freezing. Many built huts for themselves with chimneys of sticks and mud; others found a way to make themselves decently comfortable in tents by erecting chimneys or by procuring a stove, as Lee did.133 There were snow battles for excitement,134 theatricals for amusements, and religious meetings for spiritual p496 comfort. The revival that had begun in the lower Valley after the return of the army from Maryland spread from brigade to brigade. Religious leaders from the southern cities joined with the chaplains in preaching to men whose religious impulses had been awakened by the nearness of death. General Lee took deep interest in these meetings, conferred often with the chaplains and attended service whenever he could.135 As a low churchman, there was nothing alien to him in the emotional evangelism that marked most of the discourses. On the contrary, he and Jackson, sitting side by side on a log, were moved to tears one Sunday by the affecting eloquence with which Reverend B. T. Lacy described the homes from which the army had been drawn.136
Music added its cheer. Most of the Confederate bands were notoriously bad, but they were industrious.137 It was while the two armies were close together, not long after the battle of Fredericksburg, that an excellent Federal band came down to the river bank "and began," as General Sorrel has written, "playing pretty airs, among them the Northern patriotic chants and war songs. 'Now give us some of ours!' shouted our pickets, and at once the music swelled into 'Dixie,' 'My Maryland,' and the 'Bonnie Blue Flag.' Then, after a mighty cheer, a slight pause, the band began again, all listening: this time it was the tender melting bars of 'Home, Sweet Home,' and on both sides of the river there were joyous shouts, and many wet eyes could be found among those hardy warriors under the flags."138
Humor had its place with religion and music. Along with pranks and bons mots, the standing joke of the Confederate army did hourly duty in a hundred forms: "A 'cavalryman' comes rejoicing in immense top boots, for which in fond pride he has invested full forty dollars of pay; at once the cry from a hundred voices follows him along the line: 'Come out of them boots! Come out! Too soon to go into winter quarters! I know you're in thar! — see your p497 arms sticking out.' A bumpkin rides by in an uncommonly big hat, and is frightened by the shout; 'Come down out o' that hat! Come down! 'Tain't no use to say you ain't up there; I see your legs hanging out!' A fancy staff officer was horrified at the irreverent reception of his nice-twisted moustache, as he heard from innumerable trees: 'Take them mice out o' your mouth! Take 'em out. No use to say they ain't thar! — see their tails hanging out!' Another, sporting immense whiskers, was urged to 'come out of that bunch of har! I know you're in thar! I see your ears a working!' "139
Lee's consideration for the rights of the private soldier strengthened the morale which the unfailing humor of the troops expressed. If a man were caught within the enemy's lines and unjustly accused of being a spy, the General would exert himself to the utmost to save him from execution.140 He was always willing to request information regarding a prisoner or the return of a dead captive if the family desired it.141 During the winter, a court martial condemned to death a private who had deserted on receipt of a distressing letter from his wife. When he reached home and his wife found that he had come without leave, she sent him back. Lee confirmed the sentence of death but had the man pardoned promptly. The circumstances, which appealed to the imagination of homesick boys, redounded as much to Lee's popularity as to the credit of the soldier, who, tradition has it, subsequently fell mortally wounded in action, the last survivor at his gun.142
Instead of blaming Lee for their hunger, the troops felt he was struggling with the administration in their interest, and their reverent affection for him grew daily. "His theory, expressed upon many occasions," wrote an officer who saw him frequently during the winter, "was that the private soldiers — men who fought without the stimulus of rank, emolument, or individual renown — were the most meritorious class of the army, and that they deserved and should receive the utmost respect and consideration."143 He vetoed a plan for a battalion of honor because he did not believe p498 it could contain all the men who had distinguished themselves,144 and to every private who appealed to him he gave a sympathetic hearing. One day he saw a man in uniform standing near his tent.
"Come in, Captain," he said, "and take a seat."
"I'm no captain, General," the soldier replied. "I'm nothing but a private."
"Come in sir," Lee replied, "come in and take a seat. You ought to be a captain."145
That was Lee's attitude. Officers and men alike requited it with a confidence that was half of victory. "It does not seem possible to defeat this army now with General Lee at its head," a surgeon wrote.146 Later, the same observant man told his wife: "You need have no apprehension that this army will ever meet with defeat while commanded by General Lee. General Jackson is a strict Presbyterian, but he is rather too much of a Napoleon Bonaparte in my estimation. Lee is the man, I assure you."147 A private wrote long afterwards: "It was remarkable what confidence the men reposed in General Lee; they were ready to follow him wherever he might lead, or order them to go."148
In this spirit, during a March that was as tempestuous as February, the army passed through a series of alarms and preparations, while Hooker kept his balloons in the air as if he were expecting an attack.149 An expedition into northwest Virginia by two columns to burn bridges on the B. & O. and to collect supplies was made ready with much interchange of correspondence between the chiefs of the co-operating forces;150 and a change of commanders in the valley district had to be considered at the instance of the War Department.151 Attention to these details was interrupted by a call to Richmond for consultation with the President on the military situation.152
This visit, like that in January, was ended by a report that the enemy p499 was massing cavalry, this time at Kelly's Ford. Assuming that this was the beginning of a general offensive, Lee ordered Longstreet's detached divisions to rejoin, but when he reached headquarters on the 18th,153 he found that the enemy had not attempted to move any infantry across the river and had withdrawn his cavalry after a spectacular battle between 3000 Federal horse and Fitz Lee's mounted brigade. A fire from rifle-pits along the river had somewhat delayed the Federal crossing, and the Confederate cavalry had worsted superior forces with much gallantry. The victory, however, had been dearly bought in the death of Major John Pelham of the Stuart Horse Artillery, probably the most promising artillery officer in the entire army, with the single exception of E. P. Alexander.154 Lee cancelled the order for the movement of Hood and Pickett, and joined with the rest of his forces in mourning the "knightly scion of a Southern home," who "dazzled the land with deeds."155
The wise employment of Longstreet's force, thus left undisturbed south of the James, was becoming a matter of serious moment to Lee. By the detachment of the two divisions of the Second Corps, his strength had been dangerously reduced. The return of convalescents and lightly wounded did not raise his army in the middle of March above 63,000,156 including Jones's cavalry in the Valley. Longstreet had 44,000 effectives157 in his department, which was shortly afterward enlarged, under Lee's general supervision, to include the Richmond area, Virginia south of the James, and the whole of North Carolina.158 The force opposing Longstreet was p500 not accurately known but was estimated to be about equal to his own.159
Obviously, if Longstreet had opportunity of striking at the Federals, he might reasonably hope to defeat them. But was it wise to force the fighting on that front? In attempting to answer that question, Lee had to take two facts into account. First, he could not afford to permit Longstreet to move Hood and Pickett too far from the railroad, because if Hooker advanced on the Rappahannock, Lee might require them speedily. In the second place, the Army of Northern Virginia badly needed supplies, and if it was able to assume the offensive, it must have a reserve of food. Longstreet, as it happened, was within reach of eastern North Carolina, where a large volume of provisions, especially of bacon, was known to be available, but could only be collected with army wagons. Which meant more to the cause — a commissary campaign by Longstreet or a military campaign at a time when Lee might have desperate need of the best units of Longstreet's command?
It was a difficult choice. Lee sought to adjust the use of Longstreet's troops to all contingencies. He desired Hood and Pickett held as a reserve, either to support Longstreet, if that officer could take the offensive, or to rejoin the Army of Northern Virginia, should their presence become necessary. Meantime, Longstreet was to employ his force to collect all supplies within that part of his department where the enemy seemed to be weak.160 Lee wrote Longstreet on March 16 that one corps, and not three, as previously reported, had left the Rappahannock front. He concluded: "As our numbers will not admit of our meeting [the enemy] on equality everywhere, we much endeavor, by judicious dispositions, to be enabled to make our troops available in any quarter where they may be needed [and] after the emergency passes in one place to transfer them to any other point that may be threatened."161
Longstreet was of little assistance to his chief in making a wise p501 decision as to the employment of his troops. He professed a desire to attack,162 but he was on his first independent command, and his habitual caution battled with his vanity and his desire to win a victory.163 He interpreted the restraining orders on Pickett and Hood as a bar to action, and in a wordy correspondence with Lee, repeatedly asked for more men as a prerequisite to taking the offensive and collecting the supplies. With long-range cocksureness, he expressed conviction that Lee could hold Hooker on the Rappahannock, or, if need be, could advantageously withdraw to the North Anna in order to let him have additional troops.164 Lee did not feel that at so great a distance from Longstreet's lines he could insist on a definite plan. Almost despairing of substantial results in southside Virginia, he left the case to Longstreet's discretion,165 though urging an offensive. He dismissed the appeal for more regiments with the statement that if he were further weakened, he would have to withdraw to the line of the Annas, which he considered undesirable for reasons he took pains to explain.166
While this correspondence was progressing, General Lee received, on March 28, a report that Burnside's Ninth Corps was moving westward by rail, presumably to Kentucky.167 At first, Lee was not disposed to credit this report,168 but inquiry convinced him by April 1 that it was well founded.169 Now, Burnside's corps had been at Newport News. The reinforcement it had afforded the Federals in southern Virginia and North Carolina had been the principal reason for dispatching two of Longstreet's divisions to that section. If, therefore, Longstreet had been deterred from attacking because of the strength of the enemy in fortified positions, the withdrawal of Burnside greatly bettered Longstreet's prospects.
But the solution was not as simple as that. Larger strategic considerations p502 had to be weighed. Kentucky at that time was lightly held by the Federals, chiefly to protect the Louisville and Nashville Railroad, which formed the chief line of communications with General Rosecrans's army, then around Murfreesboro, Tenn. General John Pegram and General Humphrey Marshall were raiding in Kentucky, chiefly for provisions. Any large dispatch of Federal troops to the Ohio not only would put a quietus on these raids but might mean the reinforcement of Rosecrans, whose odds against the Confederate army under Bragg it was important the enemy should not be allowed to increase.
How, then, could the Army of Northern Virginia prevent the dispatch of more troops from the Army of the Potomac to the western front? If Longstreet could strike, that might prove a diversion; if Longstreet reinforced Lee, then as soon as the weather permitted, Lee could draw Hooker out and perhaps so threaten Washington that all troop movement westward would stop. In any case, if Longstreet's two absent divisions rejoined the Army of Northern Virginia, then Lee would be able to make a better resistance and, if he gained a victory, to follow it up. The involvements were thus of the greatest moment to the whole Confederate cause.
At this juncture, when a right decision on Lee's part might affect the outcome of the war, the fates that had so often conspired against the Confederacy at critical hours again intervened on the side of the Union. For the first time during the war, and for the first time since he had been at Sollers Point in 1849, Lee fell ill. He had not been sleeping well,170 and in some way he contracted a serious throat infection which settled into what seems to have been a pericarditis. His arm, his chest, and his back were attacked with sharp paroxysms of pain that suggest even the possibility of an angina. On March 30, he had to be moved from his bleak winter quarters to Yerby's and put under the care of the medical director of the army, Doctor Lafayette Guild.171 When Guild was himself taken sick, Lee was attended by Doctor S. M. Bemiss, a p503 distinguished New Orleans physician, then a surgeon with the forces.172 Lee's illness kept him in bed for some days, with the doctors, as he said, "tapping me all over like an old steam boiler before condemning it."173 The weather, which was worse in early April than at any time during the winter,174 contributed to keeping him a captive.
His first impulse was to have Longstreet take to offensive against the diminished forces in his front while he drove the Federal cavalry from the Valley and thereby played once more on Mr. Lincoln's fears for the safety of Washington.175 But the roads made immediate operations in the Valley impossible, and in view of Longstreet's representations of the strong earthworks of the enemy on his front, Lee did not feel able to do more than once again to trust to Longstreet's discretion. "You are . . .," he wrote Longstreet at the beginning of his illness, "relieved of half the force that has been opposed to you. You will therefore be strong enough to make any movement that you may consider advisable; but, as stated in former letters, so long as the enemy choose to remain on the defensive and covered by their intrenchments and floating batteries I fear you can accomplish but little, except to draw provisions from the invaded districts. If you can accomplish this it will be of positive benefit. I leave the whole matter to your good judgment."176
On April 6, after Lee's sickness had begun to abate somewhat, the Secretary of War sounded him out on something that meant even more than the detention of Hood and Pickett in southern Virginia: Would it be possible, the secretary asked, to dispatch part of Longstreet's command to Tennessee to reinforce Bragg?177 This question was put when Longstreet was still calling for more troops,178 and when threatening demonstrations against Charleston led to the belief that the forces at Wilmington, N. C., would have to be reduced to reinforce that city.179 Lee was willing, as always, to release troops if the demand in Tennessee was greater than elsewhere, but, sick as he was, he put forward a bolder plan: p504 On April 9 — a date that was to be black with woe in 1865 — he wrote the Secretary of War: "Should Hooker's army assume the defensive, the readiest method of relieving the pressure upon General Johnston and General Beauregard would be for this army to cross into Maryland. This cannot be done, however, in the present condition of the roads, nor unless I can obtain a certain amount of provisions and transportation. But this is what I would recommend, if practicable." He went on to explain what Longstreet was doing in the collection of supplies in North Carolina: "Longstreet," he said, "does not think he has troops enough for the purpose, and has applied for more of his corps to be sent to him, which I have not thought advisable to do. If any of his troops are taken from him, I fear it will arrest his operations and deprive us of the benefit anticipated from increasing the supplies of the army. I must, therefore, submit your proposition to the determination of yourself and the President."180 Meantime, to prepare for eventualities, he called for pontoons to be employed in crossing rivers if he took the offensive.181
A week passed. Lee's symptoms moderated still more and he suffered no discomfort except from occasional twinges of what his physicians considered rheumatism, but his condition was enfeebled and he had to take more rest, which the enemy seemed little disposed to allow him. The Federal cavalry was active.182 There were rumors that Hooker was planning to duplicate McClellan's great manoeuvre of March, 1862, and transport his army to the James.183 Lee did not credit this camp gossip, because he did not believe the enemy would uncover Washington. Expecting the campaign to open in northern Virginia, he made his preparations to carry out the plan he had outlined to Seddon. If Hooker did not seize the initiative before May 1, Lee intended first to sweep Milroy from the Valley. Then, with the provisions he hoped could be accumulated there by the projected raid into northwestern Virginia, he intended to carry the war again into Maryland in the hope of relieving thereby the pressure on the other Confederate armies. But there was one immediate difficulty. Even to move the army on the first leg of its advance toward the Potomac, p505 Lee must have the supplies from North Carolina, and to collect those supplies, Longstreet must be kept there as long as practicable.184 This was the reasoning that led him, at the last, to leave Longstreet south of the James and to take the risk of facing Hooker with inferior forces if the Federal commander assumed the offensive.185
That risk increased hourly, for the Federal cavalry remained on a wide front. They displayed so much more strength and energy than during the campaign of 1862 that Lee renewed applications he had made earlier in the winter to the President for an increase in his own mounted troops.186 Lee took the demonstration of the cavalry to mean that Hooker was trying to draw him to the upper Rappahannock in the hope of discovering his strength or of throwing his pontoons across the river and seizing Fredericksburg.187
For a few days thereafter, all was quiet. The Federals kept their balloons in the air continually and seemed to be expecting rather than preparing an offensive.188 Then, on the 23d, evidence began to multiply that Hooker had no intention of waiting until Lee could take the situation in his own hands after Longstreet had collected his bacon and had rejoined the army. A raid was made on Port Royal on April 23.189 It ended with the return of the Federals to the north bank of the river before they could be assailed, but it was a suspicious affair. Lee took it to be a feint, a warning that the campaign was soon to open,190 and he notified the troops on the Confederate left to be on the alert, "for," he told Jackson, "I think if a real attempt is made to cross the river, it will be above Fredericksburg."191 Stuart reported a concentration of Federal cavalry on the upper Rappahannock a few days later192 and spies informed Lee that all the troops in rear of Hooker's lines had been brought up.193 Lee watched every development intently. p506 He was satisfied that if Hooker delayed until the army could be reunited, he could defeat him. "Should he attempt such a movement when the army is able to operate," he said in characteristically unboastful language, "I think he will find it very difficult to reach his destination."194 But with the army divided, the horses feeble and provisions low, he doubted his ability "even to act on the defensive" — to quote his words — "as vigorously as circumstances may require."195 Still, when Longstreet reported that he was getting all the provisions out of North Carolina as rapidly as possible, the bacon of that state seemed so important to the half-starved army that Lee merely inquired how soon Longstreet could finish his task and rejoin.196
Sunday morning, April 28, Lee went with Jackson to a religious service, attended by a throng of soldiers, and during the afternoon, he went to call on Mrs. Jackson, who was visiting at Yerby's.197 That evening, on both sides of the Rappahannock, regimental adjutants were beginning to put together the returns of the personnel of the army, due on the 30th. Hooker's officers had a magnificent total to compile — 138,378 present for duty.198 Spies' reports and a study of the incautious Northern newspapers had led the Confederate signal corps to believe that the number was as high as 150,000 to 160,000, a figure that Lee thought much exaggerated. His own strength cannot be stated with absolute certainty, as events were to prevent the completion of the returns, but the total, excluding Jones's little force of cavalry in the Shenandoah Valley, was not much, if any, in excess of 62,500 of all arms — less than half the force his powerful adversary commanded.199 Except on the day before the battle of Sharpsburg, he had never faced such p507 crushing odds, yet he had been planning to take the offensive if Hooker did not!
Before daybreak on the morning of April 29, Lee was aroused by a distant roll that he took to be gunfire, but he was overtaken again by drowsiness and was soon asleep once more. Presently he was awakened by some one calling his name. Opening his eyes, he saw the grave face of Jackson's aide, Captain James Power Smith, bending over him. "Captain," said he teasingly, "what do you young men mean by waking a man out of his sleep?"
In a few soldierly words Smith announced that Jackson had sent him to inform the General that under cover of the fog Hooker had thrown his pontoons and was crossing the Rappahannock in force.
"Well," said Lee, "I thought I heard firing and was beginning to think it was time some of you young fellows were coming to tell me what it was all about. You want me to send a message to your good general, Captain? Tell him that I am sure he knows what to do. I will meet him at the front very soon."200
It was dawn, but it was close to the high noon of the Confederacy.
3 R. E. Lee, Jr., 88‑89.
4 R. E. Lee, Jr., 87.
5 Mrs. Jackson, 379; J. P. Smith in Richmond Times-Dispatch, Jan. 20, 1907.
7 R. E. Lee, Jr., 99; MS. deed of manumission, from the records of the Hustings Court, Part I, of the city of Richmond, Va., Confederate Museum.
9 Included in these figures were 4077 prisoners lost and 29,370 captured.
11 R. E. Lee to Custis Lee, Jan. 5, 1863; Jones, L. and L., 225.
14 Lee's Dispatches, 70.
19 1 R. W. C. D., 239.
20 3 B. and L., 84.
22 1 R. W. C. D., 239.
23 Longstreet, 323.
30 Taylor's General Lee, 153.
31 Lee to Mrs. Lee, Jan. 29, 1863; Fitz Lee, 237‑38.
33 Longstreet, 323.
34 Hotchkiss and Allan: Chancellorsville (cited hereafter as Hotchkiss and Allan), 15‑16.
35 A. S. Pendleton to his family, April 26, 1863; Pendleton, 256‑57 n.
38 Long, 247‑48.
42 Lee to Custis Lee, Feb. 12, 1863; Jones, L. and L., 226.
43 Lee to Custis Lee, Feb. 28, 1863; Jones, L. and L., 227.
44 Hotchkiss and Allan, 7.
59 Lee to Agnes Lee, R. E. Lee, Jr., 92.
60 Feb. 23, 1863; R. E. Lee, Jr., 93.
62 For an amusing instance of this, see Long, 227.
63 White, 234.
64 Cooke, 205.
65 F. W. Dawson, 88.
66 2 B. and L., 524.
67 Long, 241; R. E. Lee, Jr., 85; Wolseley, loc. cit., 20‑21. Wolseley visited Lee at Falling Waters early in October, it will be recalled, but his description was applicable to headquarters in almost every campaign.
68 R. E. Lee, Jr., 81. Rooney and his wife had lost a baby early in December, 1862. General Lee wrote Charlotte, characteristically, in loving sympathy (Jones, 395; Jones, L. and L., 202).
69 2 von Borcke, 166.
70 Taylor's General Lee, 157; 43 S. H. S. P., 41‑43.
71 Long, 229.
72 Long, 240‑41. Lee had a similar jest at the expense of General John G. Walker. (D. H. Maury, 239).
73 R. E. Lee, Jr., 91.
74 2 von Borcke, 161.
75 Hood, 51.
76 43 S. H. S. P., 41‑43; J. P. Smith, the same writer, in Richmond Times-Dispatch, Jan. 20, 1907.
77 Cooke, 306.
78 2 von Borcke, 63.
79 Mrs. Jackson, 380; J. P. Smith, in The Richmond Times-Dispatch, Jan. 20, 1907.
81 Taylor's Four Years, 77.
82 Sometimes, as already noted, he did not retain copies of these dispatches, probably because he did not wish even his aides to see them.
84 R. E. Lee to Laura Chilton, Dec. 28, 1862; Chilton Papers, Confederate Museum.
85 Jones, 437; Mrs. Burton Harrison, 96‑97; P. Slaughter: Sketch of . . . Randolph Fairfax.
87 Cf. T. J. Jackson to R. H. Chilton, Jan. 2, 1863; R. H. Chilton to T. J. Jackson, Jan. 5, 1863; Taylor MSS.
89 Statutes at Large, 1st session, Second Congress of the Confederate States, Chap. 58, 1864.
90 Hotchkiss and Allan, 14‑15.
92 Lee's Dispatches, 76.
93 Lee's Dispatches, 78 ff.
114 Hunter, loc. cit.
115 R. E. Lee to Custis Lee, Jones, L. and L., 225.
121 1 R. W. C. D., 246.
131 History of Kershaw's Brigade, 205; McCabe, 327.
133 Welch, 41; R. E. Lee, Jr., 92.
135 A chaplain who attended a review during the winter in his surplice was much laughed at, but when he approached Lee, the General took off his hat and said: "I salute the Church of God" (Mason, 375). Miss Maude Wadell informed the writer that the chaplain to whom this remark was addressed was Reverend Charles Curtis.
136 J. P. Smith in The Richmond Times-Dispatch, Jan. 20, 1907. The course of the revival is traced in detail in J. W. Jones, Christ in the Camp, 283 ff., and in W. W. Bennett: A Narrative of the Great Revival . . ., 231 ff.
137 Wolseley, 23.
138 Sorrel, 141. This is the incident that inspired John R. Thompson's "Music in Camp," conveniently accessible in The Home Book of Verse.
Thayer's Note: And for equal convenience in our own electronic age, on the Web at Kathie Watson's Poetry and Music of the War between the States.
139 McCabe, 278, quoting a letter from Jackson's corps.
140 Cf. Lee to Burnside, Dec. 19, 1862, MS., Collection of Edward T. Stuart, Philadelphia, Pa., courteously placed at the writer's disposal by Mr. Stuart. This case concerned John W. Irvine, 9th Virginia Cavalry.
141 Cf. Lee to Burnside, Dec. 28, 1862, MS., Collection of Edward S. Stuart, case of Captain E. P. Lawton.
142 Thomas, 593‑95; La Bree, 99‑101; 8 S. H. S. P., 31.
143 Cooke, 203‑4.
145 Gordon, 136.
146 Welch, 39.
147 Welch, 47.
148 D. E. Johnston: Story of a Confederate Boy, 174. Cf. Wolseley, 21, writing as of October, 1862: The soldiers had a "calm confidence of victory when serving under him. . . ."
149 R. E. Lee to Charlotte Lee, Jones, 396‑97.
155 J. R. Randall, "The Dead Cannoneer." Two other excellent poems were written on Pelham's death, one anonymously, in The Southern Bivouac, for March, 1884, and the other, contemporaneously, by John Esten Cooke. This begins:
Oh, band in the pine-trees cease!
Cease with your splendid call;
The living are brave and noble
But the dead are bravest of all!
Thayer's Note: The entire poem can be found on the Web at Kathie Watson's Poetry and Music of the War between the States.
160 O. R., 18, 906‑7, 921‑22, 933. The dispatch in ibid., 906‑7, is dated March 3, but is attributed by the editors to March 30. The original MS., which is in the collection of the New York Historical Society, has the date corrected in pen. It is either March 30 or March 31.
163 Captain W. F. Dawson, op. cit., 87, quoted gossip of the camp that Longstreet was drinking during the winter of 1862‑63.
170 As he often lay awake at night he asked that when he did fall asleep early, he be not awakened before midnight, unless the occasion demanded it. He said that to him, one hour's sleep before midnight was worth two hours' after that time (Taylor's General Lee, 155).
171 Lee to Margaret Stuart, April 5, 1863, in D. S. Freeman: "Lee and the Ladies," Scribner's Magazine, vol. 87, p462.
172 Pendleton, 256; 1 R. W. C. D., 296; S. M. Bemiss to his children, Bemiss MS. Memoirs and Letters, kindly placed at the writer's disposal by S. M. Bemiss of Richmond.
173 Letter to Margaret Stuart, loc. cit.
174 Welch, 46.
191 3 B. and L., 233.
193 O. R., 25, part 2, p752. Although Lee reported that his spies were having the greatest difficulty in reaching the Federal lines (cf. O. R., 25, part 2, p700), General G. K. Warren, Federal Chief of Engineers, insisted that the Confederate "spy system was (p506)so perfect" that an important move could not be kept from him (O. R., 25, part 1, p195). Lee was suffering also from the activity of spies. He had to warn Seddon to employ a cipher (O. R., 14, 763‑64), and he rigorously excluded unsponsored civilians from his lines (O. R., 25, part 2, p629).
197 Mrs. Jackson, 411.
199 The return for April 30, 1863, which is summarized in IV O. R., 2, 530, gave 64,799 including Jones and Hampton, but excluded the artillery of the Second Corps. As Jones was detached in the Valley, with 3402, and as Hampton had around 1800 absent to recruit and refit, the net strength of the army was about 59,500, plus the artillery of the Second Corps. This artillery was about 1000, bringing the total to 60,500. The totals of the April return are the same as those of March, O. R., 25, part 2, 696; consequently it is probable that the absentees who returned in April should be added. Allowing the liberal figure of 2000 to cover these, the total is around 62,500. Taylor, in Four Years, 86, estimated Lee's actual strength at 57,112.
200 Captain Smith printed three versions of this episode — in 3 B. and L., 203, in 43 S. H. S. P., 44, and in Richmond Times-Dispatch, Jan. 20, 1907. The words here attributed to Lee are a composite of the quotations in the three versions and may not be literally correct, but as Doctor Smith was a man of great accuracy, the differences in language are not material.
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