An Aide-De-Camp of Lee
Charles Marshall

[Notes: Chapter 7]

1 Lee’s line of communication at this time ran via Gordonsville to Richmond.

2 The reference is to Stuart’s famous raid round McClellan’s army, which began on October 8, 1862.

3 O.R., vol. XIX, part II, p. 590.

4 O.R., vol. XIX, part II, p. 591.

5 How much this weighed with Lee is shown by his letter of September 5 to Davis: “I deem it important as soon as the bridge over the Rapidan shall be completed that over the Rappahannock should be constructed as soon as possible.”—O.R., vol. XIX, part II, p. 593.

6 Palfrey: The Antietam and Fredericksburg, p. 16.

7 Battles and Leaders, vol. II, p. 673.

8 Since Colonel Marshall wrote this, the story of the “Lost Order” No. 191, of September 9, has become as fully known as it is ever likely to be. The order prescribed the movements of the army for the capture of Harper’s Ferry. Lee’s staff wrote out three copies of this order: one for Longstreet, who after he had read it chewed it up; one for Jackson, who pinned it to the inside of his coat; and the third for D. H. Hill, who, having recently come up from Richmond, was not definitely attached either to Longstreet or to Jackson. Jackson assumed that Hill was under his command, and wrote out for him a copy of the order, which Hill duly received and produced after the war. The copy sent for Hill from Headquarters was never delivered to him, and was presumably dropped by an orderly. It was found in Frederick about noon on September 13, wrapped round three cigars, and was in McClellan’s hands that evening.

9 This very definite statement by Colonel Marshall, that Lee did not know of the loss of the order until the publication of McClellan’s dispatch, throws considerable doubt on a story which has obtained very general currency. Allan, in his Army of Northern Virginia in 1862, p. 345, says that a citizen of Frederick whose sympathies were with the Confederate cause was accidentally present at McClellan’s headquarters during the afternoon of the 13th. He heard expressions of gratification at the finding of the document, and learned that orders were being given for a vigorous pursuit. Appreciating the importance of this information, he made his way through the Federal lines and brought the information after dark to Stuart, who at once sent it on to Lee. The story is quoted and accepted by Ropes (The Story of the Civil War, part II, p. 343), by General Alexander (The American Civil War, p. 230), by Rhodes (History of the Civil War, p. 169), and many others, including myself (Robert E. Lee, the Soldier, p. 149). But it seems incredible that so important a fact should not have been known to Lee’s staff. Neither of Colonel Marshall’s colleagues, General Long and Colonel Taylor, mentions it; and Longstreet, who gives an account of an interview with Lee on the night of the 13–14th, says nothing about it. Stuart makes no mention of it in his dispatch. If Lee knew nothing of the loss of the order, the promptness with which he met the emergency is the more creditable to him; and some further confirmation of Allan’s story is now required before it can be accepted.

10 The one criticism of Lee’s conduct of this campaign which Marshall did not foresee and therefore did not meet, was that Lee might have recrossed the Potomac on September 16, and so returned to Virginia with the prestige of the capture of Harper’s Ferry, and have avoided the bloody, and for his purpose useless, battle of Sharpsburg. Had he done this, he might well have been able to attack the heads of McClellan’s columns to advantage as they were crossing the Potomac, as he did on September 20, when he drove back Porter’s advance guard at Boteler’s Ford.

It is generally said, in explanation of Lee’s action, that having invaded Maryland he did not want to retreat without a fight, because to do so would affect the morale of his troops. But as Colonel Marshall says and as his own statements show, he did not enter Maryland with the object of fighting a pitched battle, and that explanation does not therefore seem adequate. It is more probable that he wanted to gain time for the repair of the railway bridges over the Rapidan and the Rappahannock, as he feared that if he reentered Virginia before those bridges were restored he would have to fall back a long way to obtain supplies. The supply situation of the Confederate army is the key to the whole campaign.