<br /> Lee Letter: g151

Washington and Lee University

Sender: Robert E. Lee
Recipient: Jefferson Davis

Mr. President,

The subject of recruiting and keeping up our cavalry force, has occupied much of my thoughts, especially since the opening of the present campaign. The enemy is numerically superior to us in this arm, and possesses greater facilities for recruiting his horses and keeping them in serviceable condition. In the several engagements that have taken place between the cavalry of the two armies, I think great loss has been inflicted upon him, but it has been attended with a diminution of our force which we were less able to bear. Could I sweep his cavalry from the field, or preserve a fair proportion between its numbers and our own, I should feel that our present situation was in a measure secure. But in view of the disparity that exists, and the difficulty of increasing or even maintaining our force, I cannot but entertain serious apprehensions about the safety of our southern communications. Should we be unable to preserve them, I need not point out the consequences. I do not know from what quarter reinforcements can be had. There is one regt. of Georgia Cavalry under Col Anderson which I believe is desirous of joining this army. The War Department can best decide whether it can be spared but if it can be, I beg that it may be ordered to me without delay. You will know whether any can be drawn from Gen Johnston’s Dept. That which is in Western Va is needed there and I am aware of no other source of supply. I think that horses might be obtained from Texas, as we have now access to the Mississippi at various points. Those horses would make very serviceable animals for cavalry, and could be brought across the river by swimming, as cattle are higher up the stream and on the Missouri river if only a few can be obtained in this way, it would be of great assistance. It has also occurred to me that horses at least for artillery service could be obtained on the Northern and Western borders of Va. by the system of exchange which is now being successfully carried on for subsistence. If good agents were selected and sent to the Western and Northwestern parts of the State, with authority to exchange cotton and tobacco for horses, the facilities for carrying on the traffic would be greater than that in articles of more difficult transportation, and at the present prices of those commodities in the North, the profits would be a great temptation, and insure the success of the experiment. I think if anything is to be done, now is our most favorable opportunity. I hope your Excellency will be able to devise some means of obtaining an increase of our supply of horses, and recruiting our cavalry, as upon that in a great measure I believe, depends the issue of the campaign in Va. Very respectfully

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. 151.