Headquarters, Army of Northern Virginia

April 1, 1864


Your circular of March 23rd with reference to Partisan rangers has been received. The organizations of Partisan Rangers serving with this army are the 4th & 5th North Carolina Cavalry (59th & 63rd Regiments), now absent in North Carolina; Lt Col Mosby’s battalion, serving in Fauquier; Capt Kincheloe’s company[1], serving in Prince William; Capt [John H.] McNeill’s company[2] & Maj [Harry W] Gilmor’s battalion[3] & Maj [Charles T.] O’Ferrall’s battalion[4], serving in the Valley Department.

Of these, the 4th & 5th North Carolina Regiments have been serving as regular cavalry, and will come under Act No. 19, published in General Orders, No. 29, Adjutant & Inspector General’s Office, current series, being continued in their present organizations as regular cavalry. I am making an effort to have Col Mosby’s battalion mustered into the regular service. If this cannot be done I recommend that this battalion be retained as partisans for the present. Lt Col Mosby has done excellent service, & from the reports of citizens & others I am inclined to believe that he is strict in discipline & a protection to the country in which he operates. Gilmor’s battalion I have already recommended to be disbanded & the companies brought under Section 2 of Act No. 19. I renew the recommendation, & recommend the same course to be pursued with Kincheloe’s company, O’Ferrall’s battalion, & McNeill’s company. Experience has convinced me that it is almost impossible, under the best officers even, to have discipline in these bands of Partisan Rangers, or to prevent them from becoming an injury instead of a benefit to the service, and even where this is accomplished the system gives license to many deserters & marauders, who assume to belong to these authorized companies & commit depredations on friend & foe alike. Another great objection to them is the bad effect upon the discipline of the army from the constant desire of the men to leave their commands & enjoy the great license allowed in these bands. With the single exception mentioned, I hope the order will be issued at once disbanding the companies & battalions serving in this department.

I am very respectfully, your obt servt

R. E. Lee







Source: The Wartime Papers of R. E. Lee, edited by Louis Manarin and Clifford Dowdey, pp. 688-689.



Transcribed by Colin Woodward, 2016 April 1


[1] James Cornelius Kinchloe (1833-1889).

[2] John Hanson McNeill (1815-1864) was mortally wounded at Mount Jackson, Virginia, in October 1864. He died on 1864 November 10.

[3] Harry W. Gilmor (1838-1883) was born in Maryland. During the war, he was imprisoned several times. He took part in the Gettysburg campaign and Early’s invasion of Maryland in July 1864. He was captured in February 1865 and imprisoned until July of that year in Boston Harbor. After the war, he worked as police commissioner in Baltimore.

[4] Charles Triplett O’Ferrall (1840-1905).