Lee's Foreseeable Plans, 1865

Lubliner

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I was very much surprised that General Lee had voiced as early as February 19, 1865, his determination of war's end-actions. This was on the eve of Charleston, South Carolina, evacuation. About this time the idea had come for abandoning all the cities, uniting the armies in the field, and destroying all works that could be used by the enemy.

[Reference Volume 47, Official Records, Part 1, page 1044].
"....It is necessary to bring out all our strength, and, I fear, to unite our armies, as separately they do not seem able to make head against the enemy. Everything should be destroyed that cannot be removed out of the reach of Generals Sherman and Schofield. provisions must be accumulated in Virginia, and every man in all States must be brought out. I fear it may be necessary to abandon all our cities, and preparation should be made for this contingency."

This comes as a complete surprise to me when I see Richmond's destruction 6 weeks later. I began wondering why the Army at Petersburg waited so long to evacuate. And then after rereading the report Lee sent, I wondered if he just meant North Carolina where J. E. Johnson, Hardee, and Beauregard were commanding. How much of these preparations for the contingency he speaks of were begun, or was this plan for future operations vetoed?
Lubliner.
 

DaveBrt

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I was very much surprised that General Lee had voiced as early as February 19, 1865, his determination of war's end-actions. This was on the eve of Charleston, South Carolina, evacuation. About this time the idea had come for abandoning all the cities, uniting the armies in the field, and destroying all works that could be used by the enemy.

[Reference Volume 47, Official Records, Part 1, page 1044].
"....It is necessary to bring out all our strength, and, I fear, to unite our armies, as separately they do not seem able to make head against the enemy. Everything should be destroyed that cannot be removed out of the reach of Generals Sherman and Schofield. provisions must be accumulated in Virginia, and every man in all States must be brought out. I fear it may be necessary to abandon all our cities, and preparation should be made for this contingency."

This comes as a complete surprise to me when I see Richmond's destruction 6 weeks later. I began wondering why the Army at Petersburg waited so long to evacuate. And then after rereading the report Lee sent, I wondered if he just meant North Carolina where J. E. Johnson, Hardee, and Beauregard were commanding. How much of these preparations for the contingency he speaks of were begun, or was this plan for future operations vetoed?
Lubliner.
Lee's only option at that point was to decide when and where to surrender. Every Confederate city east of the Mississippi had been destroyed (Atlanta) or was irrelevant (Tallahassee), isolated (Mobile) or about to be taken by the Union (Charleston, Columbia, Raleigh and Charlotte (if appeared)). Surely, even Lee knew it was over and this was just last minute posturing for his new boss (Secretary of War).
 

Carronade

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Very interesting. I wonder if Lee was contemplating a concentration in Virginia, removing material from other theaters and accumulating it in Virginia?

I agree the situation was hopeless, but Lee was still a servant of his government, and they - especially Davis - were determined to carry on regardless.

I'm reminded of Shakespeare's Macbeth, facing the end:

"Though Birnam Wood be come to Dunsinane
And thou opposed, being of no woman born,
Yet I'll try the last.
Before my body I throw my warlike shield
Lay on, Macduff!
And damned be he who first cries "Hold, enough!"
 

Lubliner

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Putting together a timeline of the pressing events the confederate generals were confronted with, I must express the opinion that something was in the works for further fighting. Lee was notified on the 20th of February, 1965 that Charleston had been evacuated on the 17th (Hardee), by Beauregard. Beauregard says in the same letter, "After close examination, and exerting everything in my power, I find it impossible for the troops now in Charleston to form a junction with me this side of Greensborough."
To me, this implies the plans were already formed to consolidate forces along the southern border of Virginia. Beauregard complains here also that Hardee had hesitated to evacuate and despite several urgings to do so, had now lost several days of vital importance to future operations. He also recommended bringing Hood's troops by rail eastward out of Tennessee, and states the rolling stock will only permit Cheatham and Stewart 500 men per day.

At this time Johnston also replies that Beauregard has given orders to concentrate all the troops in the Department of the Carolinas, and suggests that Bragg's forces also join them.
Five days pass and Johnston then writes Lee about prospective action on March 1st, alluding to an already proposed plan; "Would it be possible to hold Richmond itself with half your army, while the other half joined us near Roanoke to crush Sherman? We might then turn upon Grant....Should Sherman and Cox unite, their march into Virginia cannot be prevented by me. In that event, if I understand your letter of Feb. 23., you will meet us at the southern edge of Virginia to give battle. Would it be practicable, instead to hold one of the inner lines of Richmond with one part of your army, and meet Sherman with the other, returning to Richmond after fighting?"

So all this correspondence occurs a full month before Lee is driven out of the trenches of Petersburg and Richmond, and pressed westward along the Southside Railroad and on into Appomattox. Some united force of operations appears to have been planned between the southern generals for meeting outside of Richmond, along the border of Virginia. First, total abandonment of all cities including Richmond by Lee, and a hopeful defense of Richmond by Johnston. It was also stated that the troops in North Carolina could not destroy the supplies they could not bring away due to the needs of the population. So the idea of a full concentration somewhere in the mountains near Danville had been expressed a full month ahead of Richmond's fall. Can Lee's own hesitation in this proposal be the blame?
Lubliner.
 

Carronade

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This was about the time they were looking at the idea of a military convention as well.


That is, that the two generals in chief discuss peace terms without the authorization of their respective governments. Lee certainly knew he had no such authority from Davis.

Supposing Lee and Grant could agree on something - a truce to permit negotiations, proposals for a peace settlement, whatever - would they then suggest it to their governments and peoples, or present them with a fait accompli?

Give Lee credit for recognizing the pointlessness of continued war, but he was essentially suggesting a coup, or two coups, since he would be asking Grant to impose the generals' settlement against the policy of Lincoln and the US government.
 

DaveBrt

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The iron laws of logistics were going to end the war in the east before summer. With the loss of the railroad connections to the south (ie anywhere south of Charlotte and Wilmington, there was going to be no more powder for ammunition. The AoT was the last possible increase in manpower for Virginia/NC.

And the real kicker was the subsistence situation seen in the February 13th report (just before Columbia, Charleston and Wilmington fell).

http://csa-railroads.com/Essays/Orignial Docs/OR/OR Series 1, Vol. 46, Part 2, Page 1216.htm

While the numbers of rations look good -- 2.5 million of meat and 8.7 million of bread stuff -- when you divide that by 100,000 troops (total of both ANV and AoT) you only get 20 days of meat and 90 days of bread. And to get those numbers, you have to save all the food in Charleston and Wilmington and get food from eastern Georgia!

The war was lost long before, but even the most optimistic had to see the reality once Charleston and Columbia fell to Sherman. Only some more marching and dying remained.
 

Lubliner

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The iron laws of logistics were going to end the war in the east before summer. With the loss of the railroad connections to the south (ie anywhere south of Charlotte and Wilmington, there was going to be no more powder for ammunition. The AoT was the last possible increase in manpower for Virginia/NC.

And the real kicker was the subsistence situation seen in the February 13th report (just before Columbia, Charleston and Wilmington fell).

http://csa-railroads.com/Essays/Orignial Docs/OR/OR Series 1, Vol. 46, Part 2, Page 1216.htm

While the numbers of rations look good -- 2.5 million of meat and 8.7 million of bread stuff -- when you divide that by 100,000 troops (total of both ANV and AoT) you only get 20 days of meat and 90 days of bread. And to get those numbers, you have to save all the food in Charleston and Wilmington and get food from eastern Georgia!

The war was lost long before, but even the most optimistic had to see the reality once Charleston and Columbia fell to Sherman. Only some more marching and dying remained.
I found a report from Tallahassee sent to Richmond on January 2, 1865 which reflects the difficulties of moving the subsistence from the southern regions further north. There seems to be a pretty good planned detail of railroad iron, opening roads, and patching up the system so it could operate. I am not sure yet of the outcome between the President of the Florida Railroad mediating with the Government attorney, and whether any of these planned operations were begun. The problem with the quickness of Sherman's advance beginning on January 15 toward Sister's Bridge may have disrupted the entire scheme.

To General Samuel Cooper in Richmond, Va., from Tallahassee, Jan. 2, 1865.
GENERAL: The possession of Savannah by the enemy separates our line of railroad in Florida from the other lines of the Confederacy. Besides the necessity of getting the supplies of sugar, molasses, pork, and beef out of the State, it may be desired hereafter to remove the iron now on these railroads for use in the central parts of the Confederacy. Of this iron there is over 125,000 tons in the State, besides about 18,000 tons on the Live Oak connection and the Savannah and Gulf road, west of the Altamaha River. The shortest and most obvious route for this is by Quincy to the Chattahoochee River, at Appalaga. This would require the construction of a road twenty-two miles in length, over good ground, with easy grade. This was the contemplated continuation of the road from Quincy, and has been surveyed and the levels run. There are nine miles of iron on the Jacksonville road taken up and now at Lake City, and eight miles of iron on the Florida Railroad, extending from Baldwin toward Fernandina. This would leave but five miles to be provided. This could be taken from the road extending from Tallahassee to Saint Mark’s or from the terminus of the Florida Railroad at Cedar Keys. I forward these facts for the consideration of the War Department. If the objects should be considered sufficient to warrant the labor and expenditure, I will, as commander of the district, use my best energies to forward the work. Mr. Howard, the Government attorney, is using all his energies to obtain a decision in the case of the Florida Railroad Company, which will probably terminate favorably to the Government. 1 am, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
W. MILLER, Brig. Gen. Commanding.

Lubliner.
[O. R. Volume 47, Part 2, page 983].
 

Lubliner

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[edit]: Upon further reading the message below I found to be relating to General S. D. Lee at Chester, S. C., and not General Lee with the county land of Chesterfield between Petersburg and Richmond.
The message states,

"Do urge Lee forward. His troops ought to march in several bodies; those leading never to wait for those following. General Lee seems to be committing the error of allowing the front to wait for the rear. On reaching railroad march should be continued by those not taken up at Chester until they meet trains."

I have left the message and removed my own comment applying to a development of ongoing plans.
Lubliner.

[O. R. Volume 47, Part 3, page 682-683].
 
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DaveBrt

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I found a report from Tallahassee sent to Richmond on January 2, 1865 which reflects the difficulties of moving the subsistence from the southern regions further north. There seems to be a pretty good planned detail of railroad iron, opening roads, and patching up the system so it could operate. I am not sure yet of the outcome between the President of the Florida Railroad mediating with the Government attorney, and whether any of these planned operations were begun. The problem with the quickness of Sherman's advance beginning on January 15 toward Sister's Bridge may have disrupted the entire scheme.

To General Samuel Cooper in Richmond, Va., from Tallahassee, Jan. 2, 1865.
GENERAL: The possession of Savannah by the enemy separates our line of railroad in Florida from the other lines of the Confederacy. Besides the necessity of getting the supplies of sugar, molasses, pork, and beef out of the State, it may be desired hereafter to remove the iron now on these railroads for use in the central parts of the Confederacy. Of this iron there is over 125,000 tons in the State, besides about 18,000 tons on the Live Oak connection and the Savannah and Gulf road, west of the Altamaha River. The shortest and most obvious route for this is by Quincy to the Chattahoochee River, at Appalaga. This would require the construction of a road twenty-two miles in length, over good ground, with easy grade. This was the contemplated continuation of the road from Quincy, and has been surveyed and the levels run. There are nine miles of iron on the Jacksonville road taken up and now at Lake City, and eight miles of iron on the Florida Railroad, extending from Baldwin toward Fernandina. This would leave but five miles to be provided. This could be taken from the road extending from Tallahassee to Saint Mark’s or from the terminus of the Florida Railroad at Cedar Keys. I forward these facts for the consideration of the War Department. If the objects should be considered sufficient to warrant the labor and expenditure, I will, as commander of the district, use my best energies to forward the work. Mr. Howard, the Government attorney, is using all his energies to obtain a decision in the case of the Florida Railroad Company, which will probably terminate favorably to the Government. 1 am, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
W. MILLER, Brig. Gen. Commanding.

Lubliner.
[O. R. Volume 47, Part 2, page 983].
This is one of 20 documents dealing with the extension of the Pensacola & Georgia RR to the Chattahoochee River that I have posted on my site. Early on, it was an attempt to get the government's aid in completing a section of a planned commercial RR to Mobile (and on to New Orleans). Later, it became a very poor substitute for the completion of the Savannah, Albany & Gulf RR to Albany. There was never the money, manpower, rolling stock or will to do any of these projects and none made any headway during the war.

See http://csa-railroads.com/Essays/Orignial Docs/NA/NA,_DF_3-21-65.htm for the last gasp of these attempts.

Sims was completely against the P&G to Chattahoochee project because the river was very shallow and frequently unable to support any river traffic in the extended area where the railroad would meet it.
 

Lubliner

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This is one of 20 documents dealing with the extension of the Pensacola & Georgia RR to the Chattahoochee River that I have posted on my site. Early on, it was an attempt to get the government's aid in completing a section of a planned commercial RR to Mobile (and on to New Orleans). Later, it became a very poor substitute for the completion of the Savannah, Albany & Gulf RR to Albany. There was never the money, manpower, rolling stock or will to do any of these projects and none made any headway during the war.

See http://csa-railroads.com/Essays/Orignial Docs/NA/NA,_DF_3-21-65.htm for the last gasp of these attempts.

Sims was completely against the P&G to Chattahoochee project because the river was very shallow and frequently unable to support any river traffic in the extended area where the railroad would meet it.
I can't believe Mr. Howard would be able to make an acceptable bid to the Florida Railroad Company.
Drawing from my own O. R. I also was recently reading of Governor Vance in North Carolina wanting an explanation of why the tracks northward above Raleigh should be converted to wide gauge. The confederates were definitely busy trying to adapt immediately to an ever-changing situation. Meanwhile as the confederates were trying to patch links, Hampton requested toward the end of March to have torpedoes sent him from Raleigh so he could blow the bridges at Kinston and along the Weldon, if necessary.
Lubliner.
 

DaveBrt

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Drawing from my own O. R. I also was recently reading of Governor Vance in North Carolina wanting an explanation of why the tracks northward above Raleigh should be converted to wide gauge. The confederates were definitely busy trying to adapt immediately to an ever-changing situation.
In this case, it was a state politician trying to keep from loosing favor with his big money supporters by correcting an error he had allowed to be made when the Piedmont RR was constructed. The NC RR owners wanted the Piedmont RR to have a hard time connecting to the Virginia RR network so that freight would stay on the NC RR. This was foolish thinking during the war and should never have happened, but it did and the Confederacy fought for the gauge change to its last day.
 

Lubliner

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In this case, it was a state politician trying to keep from loosing favor with his big money supporters by correcting an error he had allowed to be made when the Piedmont RR was constructed. The NC RR owners wanted the Piedmont RR to have a hard time connecting to the Virginia RR network so that freight would stay on the NC RR. This was foolish thinking during the war and should never have happened, but it did and the Confederacy fought for the gauge change to its last day.
I suppose Governor Vance supported the politician at the time. He requested to be given an answer as why it was necessary, and received a reply that all the rails within the south were of the wide gauge, and it would facilitate the movements now necessary.
I also found two more brief sentences regarding operational plans for uniting the southern armies between Johnston and Lee.
Johnston writes a telegram, first on March 23, 1865, and then on the 24th to General R. E. Lee;

[Vol. 47, part 1, page 1055]

March 23, 1865, “I respectfully suggest that it is no longer a question whether you leave present position; you have only to decide where to meet Sherman. I will be near him.”

The next day, “I will impede his march if possible and keep in his front to join you should you wish to fight Grant first.”

Lubliner.
 

DaveBrt

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I suppose Governor Vance supported the politician at the time. He requested to be given an answer as why it was necessary, and received a reply that all the rails within the south were of the wide gauge.
Vance WAS the politician.And the answer he was given had been given to him many times in the previous three years. This was just more stalling.
 

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