Thursday, December 12, 2013

General Robert E. Lee to Colonel G. W. Custis Lee, February 28, 1863

February 28, 1863

I have no news. We have mud up to our eyes. River very high. Enemy seems very strong in our front. Cannot ascertain yet what he is going to do, unless it is to remain as he is, till better weather, then push his columns now at Newport News up James River. Seems to be his best plan. Must try and defeat it. To do this, will require our regiments to be filled up. Can you devise any plan to get the laggards out? Give much love to your mother and Agnes. Have not heard from my Precious Life since 1st of January.

I wrote to the President account of Fitz Lee, and Fitzhugh's handsome conduct. I am very glad to learn that he is able to attend his office again. You see the Fed. Cong, has put the whole power of their country into the hands of the President. Nine hundred millions of dollars and three millions of men. Nothing now can arrest, during the present Administration, the most desolating war that was ever practiced, except a revolution among their people. Nothing can produce revolution except systematic success on our part. What has our Congress done to meet the exigency, I may say extremity, in which we are placed? As far as I know, concocted bills to excuse a certain class of men from service, and to transfer another class in service, out of active service, where they hope never to do service. Among the thousand applications of Kentuckians, Missourians, Marylanders, Alabamians, and Georgians, etc., etc., to join native regiments out of this army, who ever heard of their applying to enter regiments in it, when in face of the enemy? I hope Congress will define what makes a man a citizen of a State.

For some apply for regiments of States in which they were born, when it suits their purpose, while others thus apply for regiments of States in which they live, or have married, or visited, or where they have relatives, but never when the regiments of those States are in active service. Gen. Fitz Lee has reached his camp in Culpeper with 150 prisoners, including five commissioned and ten noncommissioned officers, taken in his recent fight. Had to leave his wounded behind, six or eight (one, Sergeant Davis, Second Regiment, mortally). Gen. W. E. Jones reports that two regiments of Federal Cavalry drove in his pickets on the 26th.

He fell upon them with small force, cut them up badly, captured 200 prisoners with horses and equipments. His loss, four wounded (two mortally). Please read to the President these items. Have not time to write another letter before mail closes.

Cannot General Wigfall do something for us with Congress?

SOURCES:  John William Jones, Life and Letters of Robert Edward Lee: Soldier and Man, p. 226-7.  For to whom this letter was addressed see Clifford Dowdey & Louis H. Manarin, editors, The Wartime Papers of R. E. Lee, p. 411-3 which has a full transcription of this letter.

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