From the 15 September 1879 issue of The New York Times.

A LETTER FROM ROBERT E. LEE.


WHAT HE SAID TO A FRIEND ABOUT GETTYSBURG AND FREDERICKSURG.

Southern Historical Society Papers for September contains the following extracts from a private letter from Gen. R. E. Lee:

As to the battle of Gettysburg, I must again refer you to the official accounts. Its loss was occasioned by a combination of circumstances. It was commenced in the absence of correct intelligence. It was continued in the effort to overcome the difficulties by which we were surrounded, and it would have been gained could one determined and united blow have been delivered by our whole line. As it was, victory trembled in the balance for three days, and the battle resulted in the infliction of as great an amount of injury as was received, and in frustrating the Federal campaign for the season.

I think you will find the answer to your third question in my report of the battle of Fredericksburg. In taking up the position there it was with the view of resisting Gen. Burnside’s advance after crossing the Rappahannock, rather than of preventing the passage. The plain of Fredericksburg is completely commanded by the heights of Stafford, which prevented our occupying it in the first instance. Nearly the whole loss that our army sustained during the battle arose from the pursuit of the repulsed Fedeal colums into the plain. To have advanced the whole army into the plain for the purpose of attacking Gen. Burnside would have been to have insured its destruction by the fire from the continued line of guns on the Stafford hills. It was considered more wise to meet the Federal army beyond the reach of their batteries than under their muzzles, and even to invite repeated renewal of their attacks. When convinced of their inutility it was easy for them, under cover of a long, dark, and tempestuous night, to cross the narrow river by means of their numerous bridges before we could ascertain their purpose.

I have been obliged to be very brief in my remarks, but I hope that I have been able to present to you some facts which may be useful to you in drawing correct conclusions. I must ask that you, will consider what I have said as intended solely for yourself. Very respectfully and truly yours,

R. E. LEE.