Friday, February 15, 2013

February 15, 1863: Lee analyzes the enemy's movements

Contrary to the legend, Robert E. Lee didn't always refer to Union forces as "those people;" sometimes he referred to them as simply "the enemy." On this day 150 years ago, General Robert E. Lee wrote to Confederate Secretary of War James Seddon to give him his analysis of Union movements in Virginia and along the coast near Charleston, South Carolina.
FREDERICKSBURG, February 15, 1863.

Honorable JAMES A. SEDDON,

Secretary of War, Richmond, Va.:

SIR: In reference to the subject of your dispatch of yesterday, I will add to my reply by telegraph that demonstrations by the enemy upon points of our communication through North Carolina are to be expected, to prevent re-enforcements reaching Charleston. In addition, upon every proposition to remove troops from any section, the apprehensions of the community exaggerate rumors, and create expectations of an immediate attack. The responsibility of the officer charged with its defense tends to produce the same result.

It seems to me to be the true policy of the enemy now to apply his whole strength to take Charleston, and it is proper for us to expect him to do what he ought to do. Unless, therefore, his conduct enables us to draw a different conclusion, we ought, if possible, to be prepared for him there.

There are many circumstances that may account for the sending of a corps of General Hooker's army to Newport News besides the supposition of an immediate attack upon the line of the Blackwater or Roanoke.

First, apprehension has been expressed at the North for the safety of Fort Monroe, in consequence of the large diminution of its garrison.

Secondly, numerous desertions are reported to have occurred in some of its commands. General Corcoran's brigade was sent to Suffolk on the plea that the atmosphere of the Rappahannock was unfavorable to them. The facilities for desertion at Newport News are less than on the Potomac. Again, it may be intended to embark this corps for Port Royal. We must ascertain what it is doing to do before we can make provision against it. But Pickett's division can meet and beat it wherever it goes.

I hope Generals French and Pryor have made arrangements by their own scouts to acquire accurate information of the movements of the enemy. Without this, we shall always be at a loss what to do.

I am, with great respect, your obedient servant,

R. E. LEE,


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