<br /> Lee Letter: g138

Washington and Lee University

Sender: Robert E. Lee to
Recipient: Jefferson Davis

Mr. President

I have received your letter of the 18th I was able to leave with General G. W. C. Lee only the forces which belong to Richmond. I placed at his disposal two battalions of artillery under Colonel Carter in addition to what he originally had, which I thought might be advantageously employed in connection with [M. M?] Gary’s cavalry and such. infantry support as General Lee could furnish, in operating on the James River against any parties that might be landed, or in embarrassing its navigation. I wished him to display as much force as possible, and to be active and vigilant in warding off any threatened blow. His force is not more than sufficient for this purpose, but if we can get early intelligence, and especially maintain the road from Petersburg to Richmond in running order, I think we shall be able to meet any attack the enemy may make upon the latter place. Night before last he apparently reduced the force on his lines in front of Bermuda Hundred, and from the reports received during the night, matters seemed to be so threatening in Petersburg, that I directed General Anderson to march at once with Kershaw’s and Field’s divisions, Pickett’s division being left to guard our lines from Howlett’s to Ashton Creek. I halted one division of Hill’s on the north side of the Appomattox, in supporting distance of both places. General Beauregard had felt constrained to contract his lines on the east side of Petersburg before my arrival, and I found his troops in their new position. I am unable to judge of the comparative strength of the two lines, but as far as I can see, the only disadvantage is the proximity of the new line to the city. No attack has been made by the enemy since my arrival, though sharp skirmishing and cannonading has been kept up. My greatest apprehension at present is the maintenance of our communications south. It will be difficult, and I fear impracticable to preserve it uninterrupted. The enemy’s left now rests on the Jerusalem road, and I fear it would be impossible to arrest a sudden attack aimed at a distant point. In addition, the enemy’s cavalry, in spite of all our efforts, can burn the bridges over the Nottoway and its branches, the Meherrin & even the South side road is very much exposed, and our only dependence seems to me to be on the Danville. Every effort should be made to secure to that road sufficient rolling stock by transferring that of other roads, and to accumulate supplies of all kinds in Richmond in anticipation of temporary interruptions. When roads are broken every aid should be given to the companies to enable them to restore them immediately. Duplicate timbers for all the bridges should be prepared in safe places to be used in an emergency, and every other arrangement made to keep the roads in running order.

Most respectfully and truly yours

R. E. Lee Genl.

Notes:

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

Printed in Douglas Southall Freeman, Lee’s Dispatches, Dispatch No. 138.