• 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 It contains published and unpublished items, some well known to historians, others that are rare or have never before been put online.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 editor, Colin Woodward, at  (804) 493-1940, about how you can contribute to this historic project.



Hd Qrs Army N Va

30th Jany 1865


Lt Gen R S Ewell

Comdg &c


I have received the report of the inspection of the guard of the city of Richmond made by Maj Walton,1 with the accompanying documents, and also a report of an inspection made by Col Chilton. I think it clear that while the force on duty was not as large as might have been desirable it was not as efficiently used as it could have been. This has proceeded from two causes. First, the great want of discipline in the two regts of reserve troops, & the negligence of most of the officers of those regts by which their effective force was not maintained at as large a number as it could have been by energetic and careful management. Something is due to the divided command exercised over these regts, but making all allowances for that, there remains much for to be answered in the management of these troops for which the officers commanding them are alone responsible. Secondly. There were not, previous to the fire on the night of the 22nd. Dec last, a judicious distribution and arrangement of the guards, so as to make the men actually available for duty as serviceable as they might have been. This is apparent from the reports of the inspecting affairs, and from the fact that subsequently to the fire, it was found practicable, by a change in the guards at some of the posts, to obtain men to guard others that had before been imperfectly protected. I think that had there been as careful an examination of the subject before the fire as there was afterwards, the repeated applications for a guard for the property destroyed could have been met. With our limited resources in men, great energy and care is necessary on the part of all commanding officers to keep their commands as full and efficient as possible, and to use what they have so as to get the greatest amount of service, and I cannot consider that an officer who fails to do this, but contends himself with merely calling for reinforcements that are not to be had, possesses the qualifications that our condition demands, however efficient he may be in other respects. I cannot avoid the conclusion that it was not only practicable, but easy, with the men who should have been present in Gen Moore’s2 command, well and judiciously disposed, and vigilantly watched, to have prevented the serious loss sustained by the fire. Without however concerning Gen Moore for this misfortune, I think the interests of the service require that these troops be placed under the immediate control of the Commandant of the post, and therefore request that you will relieve Gen Moore.

The inspection reports show the necessity of a thorough reform in the administration of the two reserve regiments, and I hope you will cause it to be vigorously prosecuted. Incompetent and inefficient officers must be relieved, and negligence must be punished. I think that by a prudent arrangement in conformity to the suggestions of Col Chilton and Major Walton, the men can be saved much labor, and the number of guards at some of the posts diminished. All useless posts should be abolished, and watchman substituted wherever it will be safe to do so. The prison guard of Maj Turner3 should be made as strong as the means at the post will permit without endangering other points. I observe that guards are sent from the barracks to bring men to Petersburg. I do not know why this is necessary, as there are guards sent from here on the trains who could bring those men back with them. I call your attention generally to these reports, which I enclose, and request that you will take measures to keep up the numbers of the troops to the highest point, and obtain the greatest amount of service from them. This will require a diligent examination of the wants of the several posts, a careful economy in the use of the men, the adoption of every expedient consisted with safety to lighten their labors, and constant vigilance on the part of all the officers. It would be very well to consult with those in charge of the stores & places to be guarded, and every arrangement that will diminish the number and the labor of the guards, should be made. The number of corporals & sergeants in the reserve regts is greatly out of proportion to the number of men. This must be corrected, and all supernumerary non com. officers returned to duty in the ranks. Let it be understood that officers will be held responsible for maintaining the strength and efficiency of their commands at the highest point, and for doing all the service with them that judicious management will permit.

Very respectfully

Your obt servt

RE Lee





Source: Digital copy of original letter, Cutts-Madison Papers, Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston

Transcribed by Colin Woodward, 2018 October 18   



1. Presumably Thomas John Walton, who served as a staff officer in Virginia later in the war.

2. Patrick T. Moore (1821-1883). He commanded troops in the Richmond area at the end of the war.

3. Presumably Thomas Pratt Turner (1841-1900), who commanded at Libby Prison in Richmond.

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