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Letters from General Lee to President Davis on ‘the situation’ in September, 1863.

headquarters army of Northern Virginia, September 14, 1863.
His Excellency Jefferson Davis, President Confederate States, Richmond:
Mr. President. My letter of this morning will have informed you of the crossing of the Rappahannock by the cavalry of General Meade's army, and of the retirement of ours to the Rapidan. The enemy's cavalry so greatly outnumbers ours, and is generally accompanied by so large a force of infantry in its operations, that it must always force ours back. I advanced last night to the Rapidan, a [324] portion of Early's and Anderson's divisions, and arrested the further progress of the enemy. I have just returned from an examination of the enemy's cavalry on the Rapidan. It seems to consist of their entire force, three divisions, with horse-artillery, and, as far as I can judge, is the advance of General Meade's army. All the cavalry have been withdrawn from the lower Rappahannock, except some reduced pickets from Richard's ford, to Fredericksburg. Our scouts report that their whole army is under marching orders, and that two corps have already crossed the Rappahannock. The Eleventh corps, which has been guarding the line of the railroad, marched through Manassas on the 12th instant for the Rappahannock. Three steamers, heavily loaded with troops, reached Alexandria on the 9th, and the troops were forwarded in trains on the 10th to the same destination. Everything looks like a concentration of their forces, and it is stated by our scouts that they have learned of the large reduction of this army. I begin to fear that we have lost the use of troops here, where they are much needed, and that they have gone where they will do no good. I learn by the papers of to-day that General Rosecrans' army entered Chattanooga on the 9th, and that General Bragg has retired still further into the interior. It also appears that General Burnside did not move to make a junction with Rosecrans, but marched upon Knoxville. General Bragg must, therefore, either have been misinformed of his movements or he subsequently changed them. Had I been aware that Knoxville was the destination of General Burnside, I should have recommended that General Longstreet should be sent to oppose him, instead of to Atlanta.

If General Bragg is unable to bring General Rosecrans to battle, I think it would be better to return General Longstreet to this army to enable me to oppose the advance of General Meade with a greater prospect of success. And it is a matter worthy of consideration whether General Longstreet's corps will reach General Bragg in time and condition to be of any advantage to him. If the report sent to me by General Cooper since my return from Richmond is correct, General Bragg had, on the 20th August last, 51,101 effective men; General Buckner, 20th August last, 16, 118 effective men. He was to receive from General Johnston 9,000 effective men. His total force will, therefore, be 76,219, as large a number as I presume he can operate with. This is independent of the local troops which, you may recollect, he reported as exceeding his expectations. Should General Longstreet reach General Bragg in time [325] to aid him in winning a victory, and return to this army, it will be well, but should he be detained there without being able to do any good, it will result in evil. I hope you will have the means of judging of this matter and of deciding correctly. There seems to be no prospect now of General Burnside effecting a junction with General Rosecrans, but it is to be apprehended that he will force General Jones back and thus aid the advance of General Meade. I am, with great respect, your obedient servant,

R. E. Lee, General.

headquarters army of Northern Virginia, September 14, 1863.
His Excellency Jefferson Davis, President Confederate States:
Mr. President. The guns of three battalions of artillery have been called for, to go with General Longstreet, and have been forwarded to Richmond with that object. I think before they go it should be fully ascertained whether they can obtain horses for them in that region. If this cannot be done it would be worse than useless to carry them, as they would not only undergo the wear and tear and damage of transportation, but we might possibly lose them.

A little after midnight on September 13th, General Stuart received notice of an intended advance of the enemy's cavalry, and made his preparations accordingly. On the morning of that day they came in force, having crossed the Rappahannock at all the fords, from Stark's on Hazel river to Kelly's. They were supported by a force of infantry. He skirmished with them all day and by 6 oa clock in the evening was pressed back to within half a mile of Cedar Mountain, with the loss, I regret to say, of three pieces of artillery. From this point he fell back after night to the Rapidan to prevent being turned, and to obtain supplies more readily. He was greatly outnumbered, the enemy having three divisions of cavalry with infantry, and he having three brigades, the fourth (Fitz. Lee's) being still at Fredericksburg. He reports that his men behaved with bravery and that he took a considerable number of prisoners. He left a picket force in front of the enemy at Cedar Mountain, and I have heard nothing from him this morning. It may be a reconnoissance in force merely, but I have made preparations in case it should be an advance of his whole force. I have been informed that the New York Herald of the 9th instant contained the movement of Longstreet's corps in the [326] order in which his divisions moved, and even contains the announcement that two of his brigades would probably stop in Richmond and Wise and Jenkins take their places. I only communicated the movement to the Quartermaster-General on the night of the 6th instant, and it must have reached New York on the 7th or 8th in order to be in the Herald of the 9th. I fear there has been great imprudence in talking on the part of our people, or that there may be improper persons among the officers or railroad clerks.

I am, with great respect, your obedient servant,

R. E. Lee, General.

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