On this day 150 years ago, General Robert E. Lee wrote Confederate President Jefferson F. Davis to apprise him of the latest intelligence. Lee had conventional scouts keeping track of the enemy in his front as well sources that went deep into the North that might better be described as spies. One key piece of intelligence analysis by Lee was the objective of a new Union Army being assembled under Major General Benjamin F. Butler. Lee's sources told him of ships being assembled for an expedition against Mobile, Alabama, but the insightful Lee saw that the James River and the route to Richmond south of the James were more likely to be Butler's target.
HEADQUARTERS, Orange Court-House, January 30, 1864.
His Excellency JEFFERSON DAVIS,
President Confederate States:
Mr. PRESIDENT: Report of a scout north of the Rappahannock gives movements of the enemy which generally proceeded an advance. Provisions are being brought up from Alexandria, troops are moved to the front, &c. I do not think it can be a general advance of their army, but may be intended to distract or to co-operate with the movement reported in contemplation from Yorktown. They are no doubt aware that troops have been sent from this army, and of its dispersed condition on account of the scarcity of provisions and forage, and may wish to strike a sudden blow. I have though it proper to report these indication of some movement on the part of the enemy, as in the event of an advance up the Peninsula I might not be able to detach troops toward Richmond, and other preparations should be made. I think the two brigades that were sent to Charleston last fall, or their equivalent, might now be recalled No serious movement having been made during the winter, it is hardy probable it will occur in the spring. A scout from north of the Potomac states that all the sea-going vessels in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Baltimore are being taken up for an expedition to start south on the 15th February, believed to the against Mobile. I think it more probable if true that it is intended for General Butler, who, it is also stated, is to be furnished with 50,000 men to advance up James River or south of it.
I am, with great respect, your obedient servant,
R. E. LEE,