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    Robert E. Lee laments the "absence for a time" of the mortally wounded Stonewall Jackson

    Robert E. Lee General Orders No. 59 Signed "R E Lee/ Genl", with corrections to the text in Lee's hand. One and one-fourth pages, 7.75" x 12", "Hd Qrs Army N. Va," May 7, 1863. One day after his great victory at the Battle of Chancellorsville, General Lee issued this final draft of General Orders No. 59 congratulating his soldiers for their "heroic conduct." But the general also laments "the absence for a time of one to whose bravery, energy, and skill they are so much indebted for success" - General Stonewall Jackson, who had been mortally wounded just five days earlier. The document also includes quotes from a congratulatory letter from President Jefferson Davis. In full:

    "With heartfelt gratification, the General commanding expresses to the army his sense of the heroic conduct displayed by officers and men, during the arduous operations in which they have just been engaged.

    Under trying vicissitudes of heat and storm, you attacked the enemy, strongly intrenched in the depths of a tangled wilderness, and again on the hills of Fredericksburgh, fifteen miles distant, and by the valor that has triumphed on so many fields, forced him once more to seek safety beyond the Rappahannock.

    While this glorious victory entitles you to the praise and gratitude of the nation, we are especially called upon to return our grateful thanks to the only Giver of victory, for the signal deliverance He has wrought.

    It is, therefore, earnestly recommended that the troops unite on Sunday next, in ascribing to the Lord of Hosts the glory due His name.

    Let us not forget in our rejoicing the brave soldiers who have fallen in defense of their country; and, while we mourn their loss, let us resolve to emulate their noble example. The army and the country alike lament the absence for a time of one [General Stonewall Jackson] to whose bravery, energy and skill they are so much indebted for success.

    The following letter from the President of the Confederate States is communicated to the army as an expression of his appreciation of its success:

    'I have received your dispatch, and reverently unite with you in giving praise to God for the success with which he has crowned our arms.

    In the name of the people, I offer my cordial thanks to yourself and the troops under your command for this addition to the unprecedented series of great victories which your army has achieved. The universal rejoicing produced by this happy result, will be mingled with a general regret for the good and the brave who are numbered among the killed and wounded.'

    [Signed] R E LEE / Genl."

    In the second paragraph, General Lee has added in his own hand four words: "again" and "fifteen miles distant." Since these changes are present in the version printed in Harpers Weekly on May 23, 1863, this draft is likely Lee's final draft of the general orders. In the fifth paragraph, Lee refers to General Stonewall Jackson who was mistakenly shot by one of his own men on the night of May 2, 1863. The general died eight days later, three days after Lee signed this document.

    The Battle of Chancellorsville was fought between April 30 and May 6, 1863, and was General Lee's greatest victory. Not only were his battlefield decisions near-perfect, but his vigorous and aggressive soldiers kept Union General Hooker's larger army paralyzed throughout the battle. At one point, a Confederate cannonball hit Hooker's tent knocking him unconscious; he subsequently ordered a retreat. The fighting during the battle was ugly, especially in places like the dense thicket known as the Wilderness (referred to as the "tangled wilderness" in the document). When news of the Union defeat arrived at the War Department telegraph office in Washington, Lincoln lamented, "My God! My God! What will the country say?" It was a costly battle for the Confederates, who lost 13,000, in addition to one of its greatest generals, Stonewall Jackson. This document bears foxing and minor soiling. Browned at the perimeter from prior framing. Museum-quality restoration leaves parts of front text somewhat feathered in appearance, yet text on verso and signature are pristine and completely unaffected.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    October, 2010
    14th-15th Thursday-Friday
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