<br /> Lee Letter: g040

Washington and Lee University

Sender: Robert E. Lee
Recipient: Jefferson Davis

Mr President

Upon an examination of the Senate bill presented by Genl Sparrow for the organization of the staff of the army, I think some changes might be made to advantage. These will readily occur to you & I will therefore allude to them generally. I think it important & indeed necessary to simplify the mechanism of our army as much as possible, yet still to give it sufficient power to move & regulate the whole body. Our armies are necessarily very large in comparison with those we have heretofore had to manage. Some of our divisions exceed the army Genl Scott entered the city of Mexico with, & our brigades are larger than his divisions. The greatest difficulty I find is in causing orders & reqns to be obeyed. This arises not from a spirit of disobedience, but from ignorance.

We therefore have need of a corps of officers to teach others their duty, see to the observances of orders, & to the regularity & precision of all rncvements. This is accomplished in the French Service by their staff corps, educated instructed & practised for the purpose. The same circumstances that produced that corps exists in our own army. Can you not shape & form the staff of our army to produce equally good results? Although the staff of the French army is larger than that proposed by Senate bill, I am in favour of keeping ours down, as it is so much easier to build up than to reduce, if experience renders it necessary. I would therefore assign one Genl Offr to a Genl Commg an army in the field, & give to his Inspr Genl, Qr Mr Genl, Commg Genl, Chief of Ordnance & Medcal Director provisional grade of Col: of Cavy – I would reduce his aids & give to his chief of staff & Inspr Genl assistants, or they will never be able to properly attend to their outdoor & indoor work, which from the condition of our army, as before stated is very heavy. I would apply the same principles to the division & brigade staff – placing their chiefs on an equal footing & giving each a complete organization in itself, so that it can manuevre independently of the corps or division to which it is habitually attached, & be detached with promptness & facility when required. Each therefore in addition to its Genl Staff should have a surgeon, Qr Mr & Commdd’s ordnance officer – If you can then fill these positions with proper officers, not the relatives & social friends of the Commds – who however agreable their Compy are not always the most useful you might hope to have the finest army in the world – I beg you will excuse the liberty of my suggestions, & believe me with great respect Your obt svt

R. E. Lee Genl.


W. J. De Renne CollectionWormsloe, Chatham County, Georgia (1914)

Printed in Douglas Southall Freeman, Lee’s Dispatches, Dispatch No. 40.