[The following letter of General Lee explains itself and is of great historic value.
It was not intended for publication, and is written with that caution so characteristic of the man. But anything from our grand old Chief is highly prized, while it deepens the regret that he was not spared to fulfill his purpose of writing the history of his campaigns.]
My Dear Sir — I thank you for your kind letter of the 3d instant, which I have been unable to answer till to-day.
I hope that your school history may be of such character as will insure its broadest circulation, and prove both interesting and instructive to the youth of the whole country.
As regards the information you desire, if you will refer to my official report of March 6th, 1863, which was published in Richmond in 1864, you will find the general reasons which governed my actions; but whether they will be satisfactory to others is problematical.
In relation to your first question, I will state that in crossing the Potomac I did not propose to invade the North, for I did not believe that the Army of Northern Virginia was strong enough for the purpose, nor was I in any degree influenced by popular expectation.
My movement was simply intended to threaten Washington, call the Federal army north of that river, relieve our territory and enable us to subsist the army.
I considered it useless to attack the fortifications around Alexandria and Washington, behind which the Federal army had taken refuge, and indeed I could not have maintained the army in Fairfax, so barren was it of subsistence and so devoid were we of transportation.
After reaching Frederick City, finding that the enemy still retained his positions at Martinsburg and Harper's Ferry, and that it became necessary to dislodge him, in order to open our communication through the Valley for the purpose of obtaining from Richmond the ammunition, clothing &c., of which we were in great need, after detaching the necessary troops for the purpose, I was left with but two divisions (Longstreet's and D. H. Hill's) to mask the operation.
That was entirely too weak a force to march on Baltimore, which you say was expected, even if such a movement had been expedient.
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