<br /> Lee Letter: g149

Washington and Lee University

Sender: Robert E. Lee
Recipient: Jefferson Davis

Mr President

I had the honour to receive last eve by the hands of Col: Wood your letter of the 2nd Inst: & to learn from him the arrangements made to release the prisoners – I think under the blessing of a merciful Providence they will be successful & result in great good. If any human agency can insure success I think it will be accomplished by Col. Wood to whom I would be willing to trust the operations on land as well as sea. I think we cannot with safety attempt any communication with the prisoners. The first indications of relief must be borne to them by the guns of the captured gunboats – Neither in my opinion would it be safe to throw across the Potomac any party. Their advance to the river even would be dangerous Their transit would certainly be discovered. Col: Wood will send a boat to Cherry-stone to cut the telegraph wire to Old Point, if possible cut the wire from the point to Washington before the attack. If this can be done a great advantage will be gained. It would be very desirable to send with him some officer known to the prisoners, to organize inspire confidence & put them quickly in motion. I hope the officers there can do this – separating the Cavy, arty & Infy & officer them according to the arm of service. The only officer here whom I could recommend for the duty is Genl Hoke. If he was now taken from his division in the present emergency I would not know what to do with it. I am afraid it would be lost to us. As the next best arrangement I can make I send to-day an officer to Gen Early to inform him that an effort will be made to release the prisoners about the 12 Inst: & if successful he will certainly know it through Northern Sources. In that event, if circumstances will permit he must send down a brigade of Cavy with Genls Gordon & Lewis to command & lead around Washington the prisoners &c – I think this is all that can be done. The rest must be left to the operators. No corps has left Genl Grant. Men whose time has expired & the sick are constantly descending the river. But convalescents & 100 day men are returning in equal quantities as far as I can judge by the boats reported The 9th corps which is reported to have left I know is here. Indeed all the corps are located along the lines – The day after the engagement with the battery on James river a single turreted monitor is reported to have passed Fort Boykin towed by a gunboat & accompd by another down the river, & up to the 1st Inst: had not returned. The enemy was unusually quiet last night & this morg – With great respect

Your obt servt

R. E. Lee Genl.

Notes:

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

Printed in Douglas Southall Freeman, Lee’s Dispatches, Dispatch No. 149.