• The Lees of Virginia
  • The Lees of Virginia
  • 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 It contains published and unpublished items, some well known to historians, others that are rare or have never before been put online.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 curator, Colin Woodward, about how you can contribute to this historic project.



Confidential    Hd Qrs C S Armies

Febry 22nd 1865

Lt Gen J Longstreet

Comdg &c



Your letter of the 14th inst is received. It arrived during my absence in Richmond, and has not been overlooked. I agree with you entirely in believing that if we had gold, we could get sufficient supplies for our army, but the great difficulty is to obtain the gold. It is not in the coffers of the Govt or the banks, but is principally hoarded by individuals throughout the country, and is inaccessible to us. I hope under the reorganization of the Comy Dept: if we can maintain possession of our communications, that the army will be better supplied than heretofore and that we can accumulate some provisions ahead. As regards the concentration of our troops near the capital, the effect would be to produce a like concentration of the enemy, and an increase of our difficulties in obtaining food and forage. But this, whether for good or evil, is now being accomplished by the enemy, who seems to be forcing Gens Beauregard & Bragg in this direction. If Sherman marches his army to Richmond, as Gen Beauregard reports it is his intention to do, and Gen Schofield is able to unite with him, we shall have to abandon our position on the James River, as lamentable as it is on every account. The want of supplies alone would force us to withdraw when the enemy reaches the Roanoke.  Our line is so long, extending nearly from the Chickahominy to the Nottoway, and the enemy is so close upon us, that if we are obliged to withdraw, we cannot concentrate all our troops nearer than some point on the line of railroad between Richmond and Danville. Should a necessity therefore arise, I propose to concentrate at or near Burkeville. The route for the troops north of James River would have to be through Richmond, on the road to Amelia C. H. the cavalry passing up the north branch of the river and crossing at some point above Richmond. Pickett’s division would take the north route through Chesterfield C. H., crossing the Appomattox at Goode’s Bridge. With the army concentrated at or near Burkeville, our communications north and south would be by that railroad, and west of the Southside RR. We might also seize the opportunity of striking at Grant, should he pursue us rapidly, or at Sherman before they could unite. I wish you to consider this subject and give me your views. I desire you also to make every preparation to take the field at a moment’s notice, and to accumulate all the supplies you can. Gen Grant seems to be preparing to move out by his left flank. He is accumulating near Hatcher’s Run depots of supplies, and apparently concentrating a strong force in that quarter. Yesterday and today trains have passed from his right to his left loaded with troops, which may be the body of 8,000 which you report having left Signal Hill yesterday. I cannot tell whether it is his intention to maintain his position until his other columns approach nearer, or to anticipate any movement by us which he might suppose would then become necessary. I wish you would watch closely his movements on the north side of the river, and try and ascertain whether he is diminishing his force. If he makes the move which appearances now indicate, he may draw out his whole force, abandoning his lines of defense, or hold them partially and move with the remainder of his troops.

I should like very much to confer with you on these subjects, but I fear it will be impossible for me to go north of James River, and I do not know that it will be convenient for you to come here.

Very respectfully

Your obt sert,

            R E Lee



PS Can you not return Pickett’s brigade to him in order that I may withdraw Grimes’ brigade from his line, its divisions having been ordered to our right?




Source: Photocopy of aide’s hand-written copy, signed by Robert E. Lee, call number 23312, Library of Virginia, Richmond. Also featured in The War of the Rebellion, Series 1, Volume 46, Part 2, pp. 1250-1251

Transcribed by Colin Woodward, 2017 October 12

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