• The Lees of Virginia
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  • The Lees of Virginia
  • The Lees of Virginia

The Lee Family Digital Archive is the largest online source for primary source materials concerning the Lee family of Virginia. It contains published and unpublished items, some well known to historians, others that are rare or have never before been put online. We are always looking for new letters, diaries, and books to add to our website. Do you have a rare item that you would like to donate or share with us? If so, please contact our editor, Colin Woodward, at  (804) 493-1940, about how you can contribute to this historic project.


 

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Lee Family Digital Archive

Lynchburg Apl 29th, 1874

Col. W. H. Taylor

Dear Colonel:

            Your friend Longstreet, about whose military fame you have been so solicitous, for fear Genl Pendleton and myself would upon it somewhat, is not content with fixing upon General Lee the responsibility for the reverse at Gettysburg and stressing what glorious results would have been accomplished if his had been the controlling mind, is now preparing to claim the chief glory for the Seven Days around Richmond. If you read my last reply to him, you will have seen that he claims to have suggested the movement, and that General Lee adopted his plan. I have received a letter from D. H. Hill, from which I send you an extract, which shows that Longstreet has been intent on this scheme for some time, for it has been more than a year since he stopped at Charlotte, to see Hill. You will observe that he is now fortifying himself with the proofs, to make the claim to the origin of the whole plan, when the times shall arrive when “the omnipotence of truth shall speak to his record” – to use his own phrase.

            I have a letter from Marshall in which he says, he has no recollection of any interview on the Nine Mile Road, except one shortly after Genl. Lee took command of the army, when the question was discussed, as General Lee told him, whether the army should fall back towards Richmond, or take an advanced position, with our left close up to the Chickahominy as possible, so as to keep McClellan’s army divided, with one wing north, and the others south of that stream.

            He thinks you and Venable may probably be able to give some information in regard to the matter. I have a letter from Genl. Conner of South Carolina, in which he says that he has been informed by an army friend, that Longstreet is preparing a book in regard to the war, where tone is not friendly to General Lee.

            In his last communication, he says the movements of his troops on the second were controlled by General Lee, and he also says that Long, Marshall, Venable, and yourself deny all knowledge of an order to him to attack the enemy at sun rise in the 2nd at Gettysburg. I suppose that is the case, and I suppose none of you know really what orders were given to Longstreet. I know that none of you know what orders were given to me when I commanded Hill’s corps, and afterwards Ewell’s, for I received all orders of importance from the General in person, or by letter in his own handwriting. Long has sent me a letter giving a statement of what he knows about Gettysburg, and he says Longstreet got up in person about the close of the fight on the first. He does not know what orders were given to Longstreet, but he was of the impression the battle was to begin at a very early hour – that Genl. Lee had breakfast & was in the saddle before dawn – that during the morning he became so impatient at the delay, that he went to meet Longstreet there several times. He also has sent me a copy of his letter to Longstreet, which does not bear the interpretation the letter puts in it. He makes as strong a case against him, about the delay, as either Pendleton or myself. I told you Longstreet had better let me alone. He has taken nothing by his false claims.

Yours truly J. A. Early

 

Source: The Archives of the Robert E. Lee Memorial Foundation, Papers of the Lee Family, Box 8, M2009.411

Transcribed by Caitlin Connelly, 2016 July 18

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