Washington and Lee University

Four Years With General Lee

CHAPTER XIII.
General Lee indicted by the Grand-Jury at Norfolk.—His Advice to the Young Men of Virginia.—His Purpose to write a History of the Army of Northern Virginia.—His Desire to obtain Correct Information of the Strength of that Army.

IN June of the same year a United States grand-jury in Norfolk, Virginia, indicted Mr. Davis, General Lee, and others, for treason, or something similar to it. I immediately informed General Lee of the fact, and at the same time expressed a regret that some of our young men were discouraged at not being able to obtain employment, and many in consequence talked of migrating to other countries. He replied as follows:

RICHMOND, VA., June 17, 1865.

MY DEAR COLONEL: I am very much obliged to you for your letter of the 13th. I had heard of the indictment by the grand-jury at Norfolk, and made up my mind to let the authorities take their course. I have no wish to avoid any trial the Government may order, and cannot flee. I hope others may be unmolested, and that you at least may be undisturbed.

I am sorry to hear that our returned soldiers cannot obtain employment. Tell them they must all set to work, and, if they cannot do what they prefer, do what they can. Virginia wants all their aid, all their support, and the presence of all her sons to sustain and recuperate her. They must therefore put themselves in a position to take part in her government, and not be deterred by obstacles in their way. There is much to be done which they only can do. . . .

Very truly yours,
R. E. LEE,

Colonel W. H. TAYLOR.

This letter utterly refutes the charge repeatedly made by writers at the North that, after the cessation of hostilities, General Lee held himself aloof in sullen silence, declining to accept the situation. But two months had elapsed since the surrender at Appomattox—not a sufficient time for the subsidence of the passion engendered by war and the healing of the wounds occasioned by defeat; the hearts of the people of the South were yet filled with resentment and bitter hatred toward their Northern adversaries—and yet he, their greatest captain, counseled a prompt and ready acquiescence in the inevitable, urging his countrymen not to be deterred by seeming obstacles from resuming their citizenship with all its obligations—that is, not to flinch from a compliance with distasteful requirements, but to conform to all legal enactments necessary to enable them to resume the reins of the government of their State, and thus save her from adventurous aliens, and consequent spoliation and ruin.

Soon after this, General Lee conceived the idea of preparing the data for a complete history of the campaigns of the Army of Northern Virginia. Early in August I received the following letter from him, which fully explains his purpose in this regard:

NEAR CARTERSVILLE, July 31, 1865.

MY DEAR COLONEL: I am desirous that the bravery and devotion of the Army of Northern Virginia shall be correctly transmitted to posterity. This is the only tribute that can now be paid to the worth of its noble officers and soldiers; and I am anxious to collect the necessary data for the history of the campaigns in Virginia, from the commencement of its organization to its final surrender. I am particularly anxious that its actual strength in the different battles it has fought be correctly stated. You know all its official returns, records, etc., from the time of my connection with it, have been lost or destroyed.

As you prepared the tri-monthly returns for so long, and tested their accuracy, I have thought its gradual changes may have been impressed upon your memory, and that you might state with some confidence its effective strength, at each of the great battles it has fought, in infantry, cavalry, and artillery. You may also have some memoranda within your reach that would assist your memory. Please give me at least the benefit of your recollection. . . .

Very truly yours,
R. E. LEE.

Colonel WALTER H. TAYLOR.

Upon the receipt of this letter, I communicated with Mr. Thomas White, of Alexandria, Virginia, a detailed soldier and most estimable gentleman, who occupied, during the period of the whole war, the position of chief clerk in the office of the adjutant-general of the Army of Northern Virginia, and whose duty it was, under the supervision of the adjutant-general, to compile the army field-returns from those of the Several corps, and requested him to give his recollection of our effective strength at the important periods of the war. In response to this request, Mr. White sent the following statement of the effective strength, of the army at the several dates given, according to his recollection:

SEVEN DAYS' BATTLES AROUND RICHMOND.

Effective infantry73,000
Effective cavalry  3,000
Effective artillery  4,000
Total effective of all arms80,000

CEDAR RUN, OR SLAUGHTER'S MOUNTAIN.

Effective infantry18,500
Effective cavalry  2,000
Effective artillery  1,000
Total effective of all arms21,500

SECOND MANASSAS.

Effective infantry38,000
Effective cavalry  5,000
Effective artillery  4,000
Total effective of all arms47,000

HARPER'S FERRY.

Jackson12,000
J. G. Walker  3,000
Infantry15,000

CRAMPTON GAP.

McLaws4,000
Anderson4,000
Infantry8,000

BOONSBORO'.

Longstreet  8,000
D. H. Hill  7,000
Infantry15,000

SHARPSBURG.

Effective infantry33,000
Effective cavalry  4,500
Effective artillery  4,000
Total effective of all arms41,500

FREDERICKSBURG.

Effective infantry50,500
Effective cavalry  4,000
Effective artillery  4,000
Total effective of all arms58,500

CHANCELLORSVILLE.

Effective infantry42,000
Effective cavalry  4,000
Effective artillery  3,000
Total effective of all arms49,000

GETTYSBURG.

Effective infantry55,000
Effective cavalry  7,000
Effective artillery  5,000
Total effective of all arms67,000

BRISTOE STATION.

Effective infantry32,000
Effective cavalry  6,000
Effective artillery  4,500
Total effective of all arms42,500

MINE RUN.

Effective infantry30,500
Effective cavalry  6,000
Effective artillery  4,500
Total effective of all arms41,000

WILDERNESS.

Effective infantry48,500
Effective cavalry  8,000
Effective artillery  5,000
Total effective of all arms61,500

SPOTTSYLVANIA COURT-HOUSE.

Effective infantry41,500
Effective cavalry  7,000
Effective artillery  4,500
Total effective of all arms53,000

COLD HARBOR.

Effective infantry47,000
Effective cavalry  6,000
Effective artillery  4,500
Total effective of all arms57,500

PETERSBURG, JUNE 21, 1864.

Effective infantry36,000
Effective cavalry  4,000
Effective artillery  3,500
Total effective of all arms43,500

PETERSBURG, OCTOBER 1, 1864.

Effective infantry32,000
Effective cavalry  3,000
Effective artillery  3,500
Total effective of all arms38,500

PETERSBURG, JANUARY 1, 1865.

Effective infantry38,500
Effective cavalry  2,500
Effective artillery  4,500
Total effective of all arms45,500

PETERSBURG, APRIL 1, 1865.

Effective infantry36,000
Effective cavalry  3,500
Effective artillery  4,000
Total effective of all arms43,500

A duplicate of the statement of Mr. White was sent by him to General Lee, who, on the 2d of November, 1865, wrote as follows:

LEXINGTON, VA., November 2, 1865.

MY DEAR COLONEL: Your letter of August has remained a long time unanswered. Since then, I have received from White, to whom I had written, a statement of our effective strength at the chief battles, which appeared to me larger at some points than I thought. Marshall has also given me his recollection on the subject, which does not entirely correspond with mine, either. When I get yours, I shall have to make a just average.

I have made no progress as yet in writing, and very little in collecting information. Every one, I suppose, is embarrassed by loss of papers, and the necessary devotion to his business. It is as much as I can do to answer applications of our distressed soldiers and bereaved parents. Matters are working much smoother, and time will cure all things.

Most truly yours,
R. E. LEE.

Colonel WALTER H. TAYLOR.

The reader will observe that, with the statement of Mr. White before him, General Lee's only criticism in regard thereto was, that it represented our strength to have been greater at certain periods than he thought it was. It is very much to be regretted that the general did not prepare, over his own signature, a statement of the effective strength of his army at the most important epochs in its history. Such a statement would have been accepted without question by the world. In its absence, his letter commenting upon the foregoing statement—which fortunately has been preserved—assumes great historical value, for it establishes beyond all cavil or doubt the extent of the disparity of numbers between the two armies, should Mr. White's estimates be made the standard of comparison.


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