Wednesday, October 16, 2013

General Robert E. Lee to Mary Custis Lee, September 17, 1861

VALLEY MOUNTAIN, September 17, 1861

I had hoped to have surprised the enemy’s works on the morning of the 12th, both at Cheat Mountain and on Valley River. All the attacking parties with great labor had reached their destination over mountains considered impassable to bodies of troops, notwithstanding the heavy storm that had set in the day before and raged all night, in which they had to stand till daylight; their arms were then unserviceable, and they in poor condition for a fierce assault. After waiting till ten o'clock for the assault on Cheat Mountain, which did not take place, and which was to be the signal for the rest, they were withdrawn, and after waiting three days in front of the enemy, hoping he would come out of his trenches, we returned to our position at this place. I cannot tell you my regret and mortification at the untoward events that caused the failure of the plan. I had taken every precaution to insure success, and counted on it; but the Ruler of the Universe willed otherwise, and sent a storm to disconcert the well-laid plan. We are no worse off now than before, except the disclosure of our plan, against which they will guard. We met with one heavy loss which grieves me deeply: Colonel Washington accompanied Fitzhugh [his son] on a reconnoitering expedition. I fear they were carried away by their zeal and approached within the enemy's pickets. The first they knew there was a volley from a concealed party within a few yards of them. Three balls passed through the Colonel's body, three struck his horse, and the horse of one of the men was killed. Fitzhugh mounted the Colonel's horse and brought him off. I am much grieved. He was always anxious to go on these expeditions. This was the first day I assented. Since I had been thrown in such immediate relations with him, I had learned to appreciate him very highly. Morning and evening have I seen him on his knees praying to his Maker. "The righteous perisheth, and no man layeth it to heart; the merciful men are taken away, none considering that the righteous are taken away from the evil to come." May God have mercy on us all!

SOURCE: John William Jones, Life and Letters of Robert Edward Lee: Soldier and Man, p. 147-8

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