Headquarters, Richmond, Va., May 29, 1862

His Excellency Francis W. Pickens,

Governor of South Carolina:


Governor: Your letter of May 23 has been received. I thank you most cordially for the freedom with which you have made your suggestions about the state of affairs at Charleston and will assure you that they are duly considered. I am sure that we both estimate alike the importance of defending the city of Charleston to the last extremity. To lose this city now would, as you remarked, close our only channel of communication with the foreign world, through which we have and still hope to receive many valuable cargoes of munitions of war. The dissensions which have arisen among the officers who have been called to the defense of Charleston are truly to be regretted. Steps have been taken as far as practicable at present to remedy to some extent this evil. General Ripley has been relieved from duty in Charleston and ordered elsewhere and another competent officer will be sent to replace him.1 I will here insert, for your information, a copy of my instructions to General Pemberton:

I feel well assured, Governor, of your hearty co-operation with the Confederate forces serving in your State. Harmonious action between the State and Confederate authorities is greatly to be desired, and must result in promoting the general good.

There are now in position in the different works about Charleston over two hundred guns, many of these of the most improved class. I feel confident that this number of guns, if properly managed and fought, will render Charleston impregnable. If it, however, be found that other guns are needed, and they can be procured, they shall be sent to Charleston. There are none available at this place now.

In regard to General Huger, just at this time it is impossible to comply with your suggestion. He commands a division of General Johnston’s army around this city. Having commanded it many months, knowing its condition, and being accustomed to the command, he cannot be relieved without injury to the service. I esteem him very highly, and he has always been regarded as an officer of great merit, especially as an artillerist. I do not know how far the causes you mention might impair his usefulness in Carolina.2

I am, Governor, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

R. E. Lee       


Transcribed by Colin Woodward, 2021 July 19




1. Roswell Ripley (1823-1887), a northern-born general who served with the Confederacy during the Civil War. After being relieved of his duties in South Carolina in May of 1862, he was transferred to a field command in the Army of Northern Virginia, where he fought in the Seven Days battle and at Antietam. In early 1863, he left Virginia for Charleston. He served there until the city fell to Union forces. He then joined Joseph E. Johnston’s army and surrendered with him at Bentonville in April of 1865.  

2. Benjamin Huger (1805-1877), was born and died in Charleston, South Carolina. Despite Lee’s praise of him, Huger performed poorly during the Seven Days campaign and was transferred to an administrative post in the Army of Northern Virginia. Later that year, he was moved to the Trans-Mississippi Theater, where he served well in staff positions until the end of the war.