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    General P. G. T. Beauregard: Letter Signed (LS) To President Davis Regarding Confederate Forces.
    2 pp., 8" x 10", LS, Head Quarters near Chester, Va. Hancock's House, May 21, 1864, fine. Beauregard writes to Confederate President Jefferson Davis regarding the size of Infantry, Artillery, and Calvary forces, and reinforcing General Robert E. Lee, in full: "To His Excellency President Davis Richmond, Va. Sir, your letter of the 20th inst. has been delivered by Col. Melton. I shall do all in my power, with my limited means, to hold in check the Enemy in my front, who has nearly double my present forces, and, if possible, I will compel him to evacuate his present strong position. I received yesterday, after a severe struggle, in obtaining the shortest defense line in front of his works, which extend from the James River to the Appomattox. The line is about three miles long, and when properly fortified, will enable me, with a small force, (say about 10,000 men) to hold in check, and neutralize the force of at least 25,000 men, which the Enemy is now reported to have on the peninsula of Bermuda Hundreds. To drive him from his present position, the best plan would then be to send a force of about 4 or 5,000 men to storm Fort Powhatan, and establish there a Battery of heavy guns to command the navigation of the James River at that point - this would be accomplished in a very few days; then, by putting into the river torpedoes and a rope obstruction, under the protection of the guns of the Fort, no Enemy's repels could pass up or down the River, and he would be compelled to abandon his present postion. With regard to reinforcing Gen'l Lee, I shall be most happy to do so, whenever you shall judge proper to order it. The prisoners taken yesterday report no part of Butler's forces as having been yet sent to reinforce Gen'l Grant - they state on the contrary, that a Brigade of 5 or 6,000 ment was received day before yesterday by Gen'l Butler - this is rather doubtful in my opinion; Gen'l Gilmore may have received a few regiments or parts of regiments from his former department - but nothing more. I have ordered a close watch on the James River of the movements of Butler's forces in order to be informed, as soon as practicable, of any reinforcements he may send to Gen'l Grant. I enclose herewith an approximate statement of the effective forces I now have in front of the enemy, recapitulated as follow: Infantry 13,000 Artillery 850 Cavalry 680 total 14,530. I remain Very Resply Your Obt. Servt. G.T. Beauregard Gen'l Comdg". The letter is docketed on the back page as being received. In April 1864, Beauregard saw little opportunity for military glory because he foresaw that there would be no more significant assaults against Charleston, and prospects for a major field command were unlikely. He requested a leave to recover from fatigue and a chronic throat ailment, but he instead received an order to report to Weldon, North Carolina, near the Virginia border, to play a key role in the defense of Virginia. His new assignment, the Department of North Carolina and Cape Fear, also included Virginia south of the James River. When he took command on April 18, he renamed it, on his own initiative, the Department of North Carolina and Southern Virginia. The Confederates were preparing for the spring offensive of Union Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant and were concerned that attacks south of Richmond could interrupt the critical supply lines to Richmond and the army of Robert E. Lee. As Grant moved south against Lee in the Overland Campaign, Union Maj. Gen. Benjamin Butler launched the surprise Bermuda Hundred Campaign with landings up the James River. Beauregard successfully lobbied with Jefferson Davis's military adviser, Braxton Bragg, to prevent significant units of his small force from being transferred north of Richmond to the aid of Lee. His timely action, coupled with the military incompetence of Butler, bottled up the Union army, nullifying its threat to Petersburg and Lee's supply line. Now that this sector was stable, pressure began to rise to transfer troops from Beauregard's front to Lee's. Beauregard did send a division (Maj. Gen. Robert Hoke's) to Lee for the Battle of Cold Harbor, but Lee urgently wanted more and took the step of offering Beauregard command of the right wing of the Army of Northern Virginia for his cooperation. Beauregard replied in a passive-aggressive manner, "I am willing to do anything for our success, but cannot leave my Department without orders of War Department. After Cold Harbor, Lee and the Confederate high command were unable to anticipate Grant's next move, but Beauregard's strategic sense allowed him to make a prophetic prediction: Grant would cross the James River and attempt to seize Petersburg, which was lightly defended, but contained critical rail junctions supporting Richmond and Lee. Despite persistent pleas to reinforce this sector, Beauregard could not convince his colleagues of the danger. On June 15, his weak 5,400-man force-including boys, old men, and patients from military hospitals-resisted an assault by 16,000 Federals, known as the Second Battle of Petersburg. He gambled by withdrawing his Bermuda Hundred defenses to reinforce the city, assuming correctly that Butler would not capitalize on the opening. His gamble succeeded, and he held Petersburg long enough for Lee's army to arrive. It was arguably his finest combat performance of the war. Beauregard continued commanding the defenses of Petersburg in the early days of the siege, but with the loss of the Weldon Railroad in the Battle of Globe Tavern (August 18-21), he was criticized for not attacking more forcefully and he became dissatisfied with the command arrangements under Lee. He hoped for an independent command, but his desires were thwarted in two instances: Lee chose Lt. Gen. Jubal Early to lead an expedition north through the Shenandoah Valley and threaten Washington, and Davis chose Lt. Gen. John Bell Hood to replace the faltering Joseph E. Johnston in the Atlanta Campaign.

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    November, 2019
    2nd Saturday
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