Recollections and Letters of General Robert E. Lee
Robert E. Lee, Jr.
THE ARMY OF NORTHERN VIRGINIA
THE GENERAL'S SYMPATHY FOR HIS SUFFERING SOLDIERS—CHANCELLORSVILLE—DEATH OF "STONEWALL" JACKSON—GENERAL FITZHUGH LEE WOUNDED AND CAPTURED—ESCAPE OF HIS BROTHER ROBERT—GETTYSBURG—RELIGIOUS REVIVAL—INFANTRY REVIEW—UNSATISFACTORY COMMISSARIAT
DURING this winter, which was a very severe one, the sufferings of General Lee's soldiers on account of insufficient shelter and clothing, the scant rations for man and beast, the increasing destitution throughout the country, and his inability to better these conditions, bore heavily upon him. But he was bright and cheerful to those around him, never complaining of any one nor about anything and often indulging in his quaint humour, especially with the younger officers, as when he remarked to one of them, who complained of the tough biscuit at breakfast:
You ought not to mind that; they will stick by you the longer!
His headquarters continued all the winter at the same place, and with stove and fire-places in the tents, the General and his military family managed to keep fairly comfortable. On February 6, 1863, he wrote to his daughter, Agnes from this camp:
CAMP FREDERICKSBURG, February 6, 1863.
. . . I read yesterday, my precious daughter, your letter, and grieved very much when last in Richmond at not seeing you. My movements are so uncertain that I cannot be relied on for anything. The only place I am to be found is in camp, and I am so cross now that I am not worth seeing anywhere. Here you will have to take me with the three stools—the snow, the rain, and the mud. The storm of the last twenty-four hours has added to our stock of all, and we are now in a floating condition. But the sun and the wind will carry all off in time, and then we shall appreciate our relief. Our horses and mules suffer the most. They have to bear the cold and rain, tug through the mud, and suffer all the time with hunger. The roads are wretched, almost impassable. I heard of Mag lately. One of our scouts brought me a card of Margaret Stuart's with a pair of gauntlets directed to "Cousin Robert." . . . I have no news. General Hooker is obliged to do something. I do not know what it will be. He is playing the Chinese game, trying what frightening will do. He runs out his guns, starts his wagons and troops up and down the river, and creates an excitement generally. Our men look on in wonder, give a cheer, and all again subsides in statu quo ante bellum. I wish you were here with me to-day. You would have to sit by this little stove, look out at the rain, and keep yourself dry. But here come, in all the wet, the adjutants-general with the papers. I must stop and go to work. See how kind God is; we have plenty to do in good weather and bad. . . . Your devoted father,
R. E. LEE.
On February 23d, he writes to Mrs. Lee:
CAMP FREDERICKSBURG, February 23, 1863.
The weather is now very hard upon our poor bushmen. This morning the whole country is covered with a mantle of snow fully a foot deep. It was nearly up to my knees as I stepped out this morning, and our poor horses were enveloped. We have dug them out and opened our avenues a little, but it will be terrible and the roads impassable. No cars from Richmond yesterday. I fear our short rations for man and horse will have to be curtailed. Our enemies have their troubles too. They are very strong immediately in front, but have withdrawn their troops above and below us back toward Acquia Creek. I owe Mr. F. J. Hooker[note 31] no thanks for keeping me here. He ought to have made up his mind long ago about what do to——24th. The cars have arrived and brought me a young French officer, full of vivacity, and ardent for service with me. I think the appearance of things will cool him. If they do not, the night will, for he brought no blankets.
R. E. LEE.
The dreary winter gradually passed away. Toward the last of April, the two armies, which had been opposite each other for four months, began to move, and, about the first of May, the greatest of Lee's battles was fought. My command was on the extreme left, and, as Hooker crossed the river, we followed a raiding party of the enemy's cavalry over toward the James River above Richmond; so I did not see my father at any time during the several day's fighting. The joy of our victory at Chancellorsville was saddened by the death of "Stonewall" Jackson. His loss was the heaviest blow the Army of Northern Virginia ever sustained. To Jackson's note telling him he was wounded, my father replied:
I cannot express my regret at the occurance. Could I have directed events, I should have chosen for the good of the country to have been disabled in your stead. I congratulate you on the victory, which is due to your skill and energy.
Jackson said, when this was read to him,
Better that ten Jacksons should fall than one Lee.
Afterward, when it was reported that Jackson was doing well, General Lee playfully sent him word:
You are better off than I am, for while you have only lost your left, I have lost my right arm.
Then, hearing that he was worse, he said:
Tell him that I am praying for him as I believe I have never prayed for myself.
After his death, General Lee writes to my mother, on May 11th:
. . . In addition to the deaths of officers and friends consequent upon the late battles, you will see that we have to mourn the loss of the great and good Jackson. Any victory would be dear at such a price. His remains go to Richmond to-day. I know not how to replace him. God's will be done! I trust He will raise up some one in his place. . . .
Jones, in his Memoirs, says: "To one of his officers, after Jackson's death, he [General Lee] said: ‘I had such implicit confidence in Jackson's skill and energy that I never troubled myself to give him detailed instructions. The most general suggestions were all that he needed.’ "
To one of his aides, who came to his tent, April 29th, to inform him that the enemy had crossed the Rappahannock River in heavy force, General Lee made the playful reply:
"Well, I heard firing, and I was beginning to think it was time some of you lazy young fellows were coming to tell me what it was all about. Say to General Jackson that he knows just as well what to do with the enemy as I do."
Jackson said of Lee, when it was intimated by some, at the time he first took command, that he was slow:
He is cautious. He ought to be. But he is not slow. Lee is a phenomenon. He is the only man whom I would follow blindfold.
As the story of these great men year by year is made plainer to the world, their love, trust, and respect for each other will be better understood. As commander and lieutenant they were exactly suited. When General Lee wanted a movement made and gave Jackson an outline of his plans and the object to be gained, it was performed promptly, well, and thoroughly, if it was possible for flesh and blood to do it.
At the end of May, the Army of Northern Virginia, rested and strengthened, was ready for active operations. On May 31st General Lee writes to Mrs. Lee:
. . . General Hooker has been very daring this past week, and quite active. He has not said what he intends to do, but is giving out by his movements that he designs crossing the Rappahannock. I hope we may be able to frustrate his plans, in part, if not in whole. . . . I pray that our merciful Father in Heaven may protect and direct us! In that case, I fear no odds and no numbers.
About June 5th most of the army was gathered around Culpeper. Its efficiency, confidence, and morale were never better. On June 7th the entire cavalry corps was reviewed on the plain near Brandy Station in Culpeper by General Lee. We had been preparing ourselves for this event for some days, cleaning, mending and polishing, and I remember we were very proud of our appearance. In fact, it was a grand sight—about eight thousand well-mounted men riding by their beloved commander, first passing by him in a walk and then a trot. He writes to my mother next day—June 8, 1863:
. . . I reviewed the cavalry in this section yesterday. It was a splendid sight. The men and horses looked well. They have recuperated since last fall. Stuart[note 32] was in all his glory. Your sons and nephews[note 33] were well and flourishing. The country here looks very green and pretty, notwithstanding the ravages of war. What a beautiful world God, in His loving kindness to His creatures, has given us! What a shame that men endowed with reason and knowledge of right should mar His gifts. . . .
The next day, June 9th, a large force of the enemy's cavalry, supported by infantry, crossed the Rappahannock and attacked General Stuart. The conflict lasted until dark, when
The enemy was compelled to recross the river, with heavy loss, leaving about five hundred prisoners, three pieces of artillery, and several colours in our hands.
During the engagement, about 3 P.M., my brother, General W. H. F. Lee, my commanding officer, was severely wounded. In a letter dated the 11th of the month, my father writes to my mother:
. . . My supplications continue to ascend for you, my children, and my country. When I last wrote I did not suppose that Fitzhugh would be soon sent to the rear disabled, and I hope it will be for a short time. I saw him the night after the battle—indeed, met him on the field as they were bringing him from the front. He is young and healthy, and I trust will soon be up again. He seemed to be more concerned about his brave men and officers, who had fallen in the battle, than about himself. . . .
It was decided, the next day, to send my brother to "Hickory Hill," the home of Mr. W. F. Wickham, in Hanover County, about twenty miles from Richmond, and I was put in charge of him to take him there and to be with him until his wound should heal. Thus it happened that I did not meet my father again until after Gettysburg had been fought, and the army had recrossed into Virginia, almost to the same place I had left it. My father wrote my brother a note the morning after he was wounded, before he left Culpeper. It shows his consideration and tenderness:
My Dear Son: I send you a despatch, received from C. last night. I hope you are comfortable this morning. I wish I could see you, but I cannot. Take care of yourself, and make haste and get well and return. Though I scarcely ever saw you, it was a great comfort to know that you were near and with me. I could think of you and hope to see you. May we yet meet in peace and happiness. . . .
In a letter to my brother's wife, written on the 11th, his love and concern for both of them are plainly shown:
I am so grieved, my dear daughter, to send Fitzhugh to you wounded. But I am so grateful that his wound is of a character to give us full hope of a speedy recovery. With his youth and strength to aid him, and your tender care to nurse him, I trust he will soon be well again. I know that you will unite with me in thanks to Almighty God, who has so often sheltered him in the hour of danger, for his recent deliverance, and lift up your whole heart in praise to Him for sparing a life so dear to us, while enabling him to do his duty in the station in which He had placed him. Ask him to join us in supplication that He may always cover him with the shadow of His almighty arm, and teach him that his only refuge is in Him, the greatness of whose mercy reacheth unto the heavens, and His truth unto the clouds. As some good is always mixed with the evil in this world, you will now have him with you for a time, and I shall look to you to cure him soon and send him back to me. . . .
My brother reached "Hickory Hill" quite comfortably, and his wound commenced to heal finely. His wife joined him, my mother and sisters came up from Richmond, and he had all the tender care he could wish. He occupied "the office" in the yard, while I slept in the room adjoining and became quite an expert nurse. About two weeks after our arrival, one lovely morning as we all came out from the breakfast table, stepping into the front porch with Mrs. Wickham, we were much surprised to hear to or three shots down in the direction of the outer gate, where there was a large grove of hickory trees. Mrs. Wickham said some one must be after her squirrels, as there were many in those woods, and she asked me to run down and stop whoever was shooting them. I got my hat, and at once started off to do her bidding. I had not gone over a hundred yards toward the grove, when I saw, coming up at a gallop to the gate I was making for, five or six Federal cavalrymen. I knew what it meant at once, so I rushed back to the office and told my brother. He immediately understood the situation and directed me to get away—said I could do no good by staying, that the soldiers could not and would not hurt him, and there was nothing to be gained by my falling into their hands; but that, on the contrary, I might do a great deal of good by eluding them, making my way to "North Wales," a plantation across the Pamunkey River, and saving our horses.
So I ran out, got over the fence and behind a thick hedge, just as I heard the tramp and clank of quite a body of troopers riding up. Behind this hedge I crept along until I reached a body of woods, where I was perfectly safe. From a hill near by I ascertained that there was a large raiding party of Federal cavalry in the main road, and the heavy smoke ascending from the Court House, about three miles away, told me that they were burning the railroad buildings at that place. After waiting until I thought the coast was clear, I worked my way very cautiously back to the vicinity of the house to find out what was going on. Fortunately, I took advantage of the luxuriant shrubbery in the old garden at the rear of the house, and when I looked out from the last box bush that screened me, about twenty yards from the back porch, I perceived that I was too soon, for there were standing, sitting and walking about quite a number of the bluecoats. I jumped back behind the group of box trees, and, flinging myself flat under a thick fir, crawled close up to the trunk under the low-hanging branches, and lay there for some hours.
I saw my brother brought out from the office on a mattress, and placed in the "Hickory Hill" carriage, to which was hitched Mr. Wichkam's horses, and then saw him driven away, a soldier on the box and a mounted guard surrounding him. He was carried to the "White House" in this way, and then sent by water to Fortress Monroe. This party had been sent out especially to capture him, and he was held as a hostage (for the safety of some Federal officers we had captured) for nine long, weary months.
The next day I found out that all the horses but one had been saved by the faithfulness of our servants. The one lost, my brother's favourite and best horse, was ridden straight into the column by Scott, a negro servant, who had him out for exercise. Before he knew our enemies, he and the horse were prisoners. Scott watched for his opportunity, and, not being guarded, soon got away. By crawling through a culvert, under the road, while the cavalry was passing along, he made his way into a deep ditch in the adjoining field, thence succeeded in reaching the farm where the rest of the horses were, and hurried them off to a safe place in the woods, just as the Federal cavalry rode up to get them.
In a letter dated Culpeper, July 26th, to my brother's wife, my father thus urges resignation:
I received, last night, my darling daughter, your letter of the 18th from "Hickory Hill." . . . You must not be sick while Fitzhugh is away, or he will be more restless under his separation. Get strong and hearty by his return, that he may the more rejoice at the sight of you. . . . I can appreciate your distress at Fitzhugh's situation. I deeply sympathise with it, and in the lone hours of the night I groan in sorrow at his captivity and separation from you. But we must bear it, exercise all our patience, and do nothing to aggravate the evil. This, besides injuring ourselves, would rejoice our enemies and be sinful in the eyes of God. In His own good time He will relieve us and make all things work together for our good, if we give Him our love and place in Him our trust. I can see no harm that can result from Fitzhugh's capture, except his detention. I feel assured that he will be well attended to. He will be in the hands of old army officers and surgeons, most of whom are men of principle and humanity. His wound, I understand, has not been injured by his removal, but is doing well. Nothing would do him more harm than for him to learn that you were sick and sad. How could he get well? So cheer up and prove your fortitude and patriotism. . . . You may think of Fitzhugh and love him as much as you please, but do not grieve over him or grow sad.
From Williamsport, to my mother, he thus writes of his son's capture:
I have heard with great grief that Fitzhugh has been captured by the enemy. Had not expected that he would be taken from his bed and carried off, but we must bear this additional affliction with fortitude and resignation, and not repine at the will of God. It will eventuate in some good that we know not of now. We must bear our labours and hardships manfully. Our noble men are cheerful and confident. I constantly remember you in my thoughts and prayers.
On July 12th, from near Hagerstown, he writes again about him:
The consequences of war are horrid enough at best, surrounded by all the ameliorations of civilisation and Christianity. I am very sorry for the injuries done the family at Hickory Hill, and particularly that our dear old Uncle Williams, in his eightieth year, should be subjected to such treatment. But we cannot help it, and must endure it. You will, however, learn before this reaches you that our success at Gettysburg was not so great as reported—in fact, that we failed to drive the enemy from his position, and that our army withdrew to the Potomac. Had the river not unexpectedly risen, all would have been well with us; but God, in His all-wise providence, willed otherwise, and our communications have been interrupted and almost cut off. The waters have subsided to about four feet, and, if they continue, by to-morrow, I hope, our communications will be open. I trust that a merciful God, our only hope and refuge, will not desert us in this hour of need, and will deliver us by His almighty hand, that the whole world may recognise His power and all hearts be lifted up in adoration and praise of His unbounded loving-kindness. We must, however, submit to His almighty will, whatever that may be. May God guide and protect us all is my constant prayer.
In 1868, in a letter to Major Wm. M. McDonald, of Berryville, Clarke County, Virginia, who was intending to write a school history, and had written to my father, asking for information about some of his great battles, the following statement appears:
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.
After my brother's capture I went to Richmond, taking with me his horses and servants. After remaining there a short time, I mounted my mare and started back to the army, which I found at its old camping-ground in Culpeper. I stopped at first for a few days with my father. He was very glad to see me and the could tell him all about my mother and sisters, and many other friends whom I had just left in Richmond. He appeared to be unchanged in manner and appearance. The disappointment in the Gettysburg campaign, to which he alludes in his letter to my mother, was not shown in anything he said or did. He was calm and dignified with all, at times bright and cheerful, and always had a pleasant word for those about him. The army lay inactive, along the line of the Rappahannock and the Rapidan for two months, watching the enemy, who was in our front. We were very anxious to attack or to be attacked, but each general desired to fight on ground of his own choosing.
During this period, and indeed at all times, my father was fully employed. Besides the care of his own immediate command, he advised with the President and Secretary of War as to the movements and dispositions of the other armies in the Confederacy. In looking over his correspondence one is astonished a the amount of it and at its varied character. He always answered all letters addressed to him, from whatever source, if it was possible. During this winter he devoted himself especially to looking after the welfare of his troops, their clothing, shoes, and rations, all three of which were becoming very scarce. Often, indeed, his army had only a few days' rations in sight. Here are some letters written to the authorities, showing how he was hampered in his movements by the deficiencies existing in the quartermaster's and commissary departments. To the Quartermaster-General, at Richmond, he writes, October, 1863, after his movement around General Meade's right, to Manassas:
. . . The want of supplies of shoes, clothing and blankets is very great. Nothing but my unwillingness to expose the men to the hardships that would have resulted from moving them into Loudoun in their present condition induced me to return to the Rappahannock. But I was averse to marching them over the rough roads of that region, at a season, too, when frosts are certain and snow probable, unless they were better provided to encounter them without suffering. I should, otherwise have endeavoured to detain General Meade near the Potomac, if I could not throw him to the north side.
In a letter of the same time to the Honourable James A. Seddon, Secretary of War:
. . . If General Meade is disposed to remain quiet where he is, it was my intention, provided the army could be supplied with clothing, again to advance and threaten his position. Nothing prevented my continuing in his front but the destitute condition of the men, thousands of whom are barefooted, a greater number partially shod, and nearly all without overcoats, blankets, or warm clothing. I think the sublimest sight of war was the cheerfulness and alacrity exhibited by this army in the pursuit of the enemy under all the trial and privations to which it was exposed. . . .
Later on, in January, when the severe weather commenced, he again writes to the Quartermaster-General on the same subject:
General: The want of shoes and blankets in this army continues to cause much suffering and to impair its efficiency. In one regiment I am informed that there are only fifty men with serviceable shoes, and a brigade that recently went on picket was compelled to leave several hundred men in camp, who were unable to bear the exposure of duty, being destitute of shoes and blankets. . . . The supply, by running the blockade, has become so precarious that I think we should turn our attention chiefly to our own resources, and I should like to be informed how far the latter can be counted upon. . . . I trust that no efforts will be spared to develop our own resources of supply, as a further dependence upon those from abroad can result in nothing but increase of suffering and want. I am, with great respect, Your obedient servant,
R. E. LEE, General.
There was at this time a great revival of religion in the army. My father became much interested in it, and did what he could to promote in his camps all sacred exercises. Reverend J. W. Jones, in his "Personal Reminiscences of General R. E. Lee," says:
General Lee's orders and reports always gratefully recognised "The Lord of Hosts" as the "Giver of Victory," and expressed an humble dependence upon and trust in Him.
All his correspondence shows the same devout feeling.
On August 13, 1863, he issued the following order:
HEADQUARTERS, ARMY NORTHERN VIRGINIA,
August 13, 1863.
The President of the Confederate States has, in the name of the people, appointed August 21st as a day of fasting, humiliation, and prayer. A strict observance of the day is enjoined upon the officers and soldiers of this army. All military duties, except such as are absolutely necessary, will be suspended. The commanding officers of brigades and regiments are requested to cause divine services, suitable to the occasion, to be performed in their respective commands. Soldiers! we have sinned against Almighty God. We have forgotten His signal mercies, and have cultivated a revengeful, haughty, and boastful spirit. We have not remembered that the defenders of a just cause should be pure in His eyes; that "our times are in His hands," and we have relied too much on our own arms for the achievement of our independence. God is our only refuge and our strength. Let us humble ourselves before Him. Let us confess our many sins, and beseech Him to give us a higher courage, a purer patriotism, and more determined will; that He will convert the hearts of our enemies; that He will hasten the time when war, with its sorrows and sufferings, shall cease, and that He will give us a name and place among the nations of the earth.
R. E. LEE, General.
His was a practical, every-day religion, which supported him all through his life, enabled him to bear with equanimity every reverse of fortune, and to accept her gifts without undue elation. During this period of rest, so unusual to the Army of Northern Virginia, several reviews were held before the commanding general. I remember being present when that of the Third Army Corps, General A. P. Hill commanding, took place. Some of us young cavalrymen, then stationed near the Rappahannock, rode over to Orange Court House to see this grand military pageant. From all parts of the army, officers and men who could get leave came to look on, and from all the surrounding country the people, old and young, ladies and children, came in every pattern of vehicle and on horseback, to see twenty thousand of that "incomparable infantry" of the Army of Northern Virginia pass in review before their great commander.
The General was mounted on Traveller, looking very proud of his master, who had on sash and sword, which he very rarely wore, a pair of new cavalry gauntlets, and, I think, a new hat. At any rate, he looked unusually fine, and sat his horse like a perfect picture of grace and power. The infantry was drawn up in column by divisions, with their bright muskets all glittering in the sun, their battle-flags standing straight out before the breeze, and their bands playing, awaiting the inspection of the General, before they broke into column by companies and marched past him in review. When all was ready, General Hill and staff rode up to General Lee, and the two generals, with their respective staffs, galloped around front and rear of each of the three divisions standing motionless on the plain. As the cavalcade reached the head of each division, its commanding officer joined in and followed as far as the next division, so that there was a continual infusion of fresh groups into the original one all along the lines. Traveller started with a long lope, and never changed his stride. His rider sat erect and calm, not noticing anything but the gray lines of men whom he knew so well. The pace was very fast, as there were nine good miles to go, and the escort began to become less and less, dropping out one by one from different causes as Traveller raced along without a check. When the General drew up, after this nine-mile gallop, under the standard at the reviewing-stand, flushed with the exercise as well as with pride in his brave men, he raised his hat and saluted. Then arose a shout of applause and admiration from the entire assemblage, the memory of which to this day moistens the eye of every old soldier. The corps was then passed in review at a quick-step, company front. It was a most imposing sight. After it was all over, my father rode up to several carriages whose occupants he knew and gladdened them by a smile, a word, or a shake of the hand. He found several of us young officers with some pretty cousins of his from Richmond, and he was very bright and cheerful, joking us young people about each other. His letters to my mother and sister this summer and fall help to give an insight into his thoughts and feelings. On July 15th, from Bunker Hill, in a letter to his wife, he says:
. . . The army has returned to Virginia. Its return is rather sooner than I had originally contemplated, but having accomplished much of what I proposed on leaving the Rappahannock—namely, relieving the valley of the presence of the enemy and drawing his army north of the Potomac—I determined to recross the latter river. The enemy, after centering his forces in our front, began to fortify himself in his position and bring up his troops, militia, etc.—and those around Washington and Alexandria. This gave him enormous odds. It also circumscribed our limits for procuring subsistence for men and animals, which, with the uncertain state of the river, rendered it hazardous for us to continue on the north side. It has been raining a great deal since we first crossed the Potomac, making the roads horrid and embarrassing our operations. The night we recrossed it rained terribly, yet we got all over safe, save such vehicles as broke down on the road from the mud, rocks, etc. We are all well. I hope we will yet be able to damage our adversaries when they meet us. That it should be so, we must implore the forgiveness of God for our sins, and the continuance of His blessings. There is nothing but His almighty power that can sustain us. God bless you all. . . .
Later, July 26th, he writes from Camp Culpeper:
. . . After crossing the Potomac, finding that the Shenandoah was six feet above the fording-stage, and, having waited for a week for it to fall, so that I might cross into Loudoun, fearing that the enemy might take advantage of our position and move upon Richmond, I determined to ascend the Valley and cross into Culpeper. Two corps are here with me. The third passed Thornton's Gap, and I hope will be in striking distance to-morrow. The army has laboured hard, endured much, and behaved nobly. It has accomplished all that could be reasonably expected. It ought not to have been expected to perform impossibilities, or to have fulfilled the anticipations of the thoughtless and unreasonable.
On August 2d, from the same camp, he again writes to my mother:
. . . I have heard of some doctor having reached Richmond, who had seen our son at Fortress Monroe. He said that his wound is improving, and that he himself was well and walking about on crutches. The exchange of prisoners that had been going on has, for some cause, been suspended, owing to some crotchet or other, but I hope will soon be resumed, and that we shall have him back soon. The armies are in such close proximity that frequent collisions are common along the outposts. Yesterday the enemy laid down two or three pontoon bridges across the Rappahannock and crossed his cavalry, with a big force of his infantry. It looked at first as if it were the advance of his army, and, as I had not intended to deliver battle, I directed our cavalry to retire slowly before them and to check their too rapid pursuit. Finding, later in the day, that their army was not following, I ordered out the infantry and drove them back to the river. I suppose they intended to push on to Richmond by this or some other route. I trust, however, they will never reach there. . . .
On August 23d, from the camp near Orange Court House, General Lee writes to Mrs. Lee:
. . . My camp is near Mr. Erasmus Taylor's house, who has been very kind in contributing to our comfort. His wife sends us every day, buttermilk, loaf bread, ice, and such vegetables as she has. I cannot get her to desist, though I have made two special visits to that effect. All the brides have come on a visit to the army: Mrs. Ewell, Mrs. Walker, Mrs. Heth, etc. General Meade's army is north of the Rappahannock along the Orange and Alexandria Railroad. He is very quiet. . . .
September 4, 1863.
. . . You see I am still here. When I wrote last, the indications were that the enemy would move against us any day; but this past week he has been very quiet, and seems at present to continue so. I was out looking at him yesterday, from Clarke's Mountain. He has spread himself over a large surface and looks immense. . . .
And on September 18th, from the same camp:
. . . The enemy state that they have heard of a great reduction in our forces here, and are now going to drive us back to Richmond. I trust they will not succeed; but our hope and our refuge is in our merciful Father in Heaven. . . .
On October 9th, the Army of Northern Virginia was put in motion, and wa pushed around Meade's right. Meade was gradually forced back to a position near the old battlefield at Manassas. Although we had hard marching, much skirmishing, and several severe fights between the cavalry of both armies, nothing permanent was accomplished, and in about ten days we were back on our old lines. In a letter of October 19, 1863, to his wife, my father says:
. . . I have returned to the Rappahannock. I did not pursue with the main army beyond Bristoe or Broad Run. Our advance went as far as Bull Run, where the enemy was entrenched, extending his right as far as "Chantilly," in the yard of which he was building a redoubt. I could have thrown him farther back, but saw no chance of bringing him to battle, and it would only have served to fatigue our troops by advancing farther. I should certainly have endeavored to throw them north of the Potomac; but thousands were barefooted, thousands with fragments of shoes, and all without overcoats, blankets, or warm clothing. I could not bear to expose them to certain suffering and an uncertain issue. . . .
On October 25th, from "Camp Rappahannock," he writes again to my mother:
. . . I moved yesterday into a nice pine thicket, and Perry is to-day engaged in constructing a chimney in front of my tent, which will make it warm and comfortable. I have no idea when Fitzhugh[note 34] will be exchanged. The Federal authorities still resist all exchanges, because they think it is to our interest to make them. Any desire expressed on our part for the exchange of any individual magnifies the difficulty, as they at once think some great benefit is to result to us from it. His detention is very grievous to me, and, besides, I want his services. I am glad you have some socks for the army. Send them to me. They will come safely. Tell the girls[note 35] to send all they can. I wish they could make some shoes, too. We have thousands of barefooted men. There is no news. General Meade, I believe, is repairing the railroad, and I presume will come on again. If I could only get some shoes and clothes for the men, I would save him the trouble. . . .
One can see from these letters of my father how deeply he felt for the sufferings of his soldiers, and how his plans were hindered by inadequate supplies of food and clothing. I heard him constantly allude to these troubles; indeed, they seemed never absent from his mind.
Return to Recollections and Letters of General Robert E. Lee