Coosawhatchie, S.C., November 24, 1861

His Excellency the President of the Confederate States:


My absence on an examination of the coast of South Carolina and Georgia has prevented until now my reply to your note of the 4th instant, asking hat communication was made by General Beauregard to you through the honorable Mr. Chesnut on the subject of his position at Manassas in July last, and what were the propositions and requests conveyed by him.

I have not seen the report of General Beauregard of the battle of Manassas, and am unable to refer to his introductory statement to which you call my attention. I cannot, therefore, say how far it agrees with the communication of Mr. Chesnut. I recollect, however, that at the interview at which I was present Mr. Chesnut urged, on the part of General Beauregard, the importance of re-enforcing the Army of the Potomac to enable it to oppose the Federal forces accumulating in its front. As a means of accomplishing this end he suggested that a portion of the Army in the Shenandoah Valley, under General Johnston, be ordered to join it. With the aid thus afforded General Beauregard thought he could successfully resist an attack of the enemy. Should he succeed in repulsing him, he could in turn re-enforce General Johnston. Should General Johnston succeed in driving back General Patterson, then in his front, he could re-enforce the Army in Northwestern Virginia. The advantages of the union of the armies on the Potomac had been more than once the subject of consideration by you, and I do not recollect that at the interview in question they were less apparent. The difficulty of timing the march of the troops so as to benefit one army without jeopardizing the object of the other was therefore mainly considered, and you decided that the movements of the enemy in and about Alexandria were not sufficiently demonstrative to warrant the withdrawing of any of the forces from the Shenandoah Valley. A few days afterwards, however—I think three or four—the reports from General Beauregard showed so clearly the enemy’s purpose, that you ordered General Johnston, with his effective force, to march at once to the support of General Beauregard, and directed General Holmes, with such troops as could be spared from the defense of the approaches to Fredericksburg, to move upon Manassas.

The successful combination of the armies was made, and the glorious victory of July 21 followed.

I have the honor, &c.,

R E Lee




Source: The War of the Rebellion, Series 1, Part 2, p. 515

Transcribed by Colin Woodward, 2017 November 13