Description

    The strength of the enemy... exceeds the whole force that we have in the State... and far outnumbers any force we can bring against it in the field.

    Robert E. Lee Civil War-Dated Letter Signed to South Carolina Governor Francis W. Pickens, with Pickens Autograph Endorsement Signed. Four pages, 7.875" x 9.875", blue lined "Congress" embossed foldover lettersheet, December 27, 1861, Coosawhatchie, South Carolina. Lee replies to Pickens' concerns over the number of troops available for field operations in defense of South Carolina. He gives specific information on the commands and troops and warns the governor that the priority of Confederate troop deployment is to retain control of the forts at Georgetown and in the area around Charlestown.

    The letter reads, in part: "I have had the honor to receive your letter of the 20th inst: In a previous letter I endeavored to express to your Excell'cy, my entire willingness to arm certain companies of regiments already in the service named by you, provided any arms remained after arming the regiments being organized for the war. But I cannot issue to them arms, before the arming of the regiments is completed... My object is to make the arms available for the defence of the State, as soon as possible and I hope your Excell'cy will aid me in this... The enemy is making demonstrations ag'st Wadmalaw Is'd, and our force there is not strong enough to resist him... Since your letter authorising me to take command of the State Troops in the field, I have felt no hesitation in doing so... According to the last returns received, the number of troops mustered in Confed. Service from So. Carolina, within the Dept:, present for duty, is 10.036, including offrs. non comd. Offs. &P'vts... The strength of the enemy, as far as I am able to judge, exceeds the whole force that we have in the State; it can be thrown with great celerity against any point, and far outnumbers any force we can bring against it in the field."

    On page four, beneath the docketing, Governor Pickens has written: "Genl. [States Rights] Gist will - see that Genl. Lee puts the force from this Ste into Confederate service at 10,036 -- does this include the garrisons at the forts or not - does it include Manigault's rgts at Georgetown of 12 companies 1148 -men. Please make the true state of things appear./ The return of DeSaussure's Brigade was last number 3,400 & this included all - I only meant as its number, but I knew only about 1600 were ever out./ F W Pickens / 29. Decr. 1861/ Let me know & Moses will copy for to be sent into the Convention./ F W P"

    Robert E. Lee had gone to Richmond in late April 1861 to take command of Virginia's military forces, at the invitation of Gov. John Letcher. When the militias and volunteer armies of other states who joined the Confederacy were under the command of the Provisional Confederate Army, Lee took on the critical task of molding the various locally formed units into a unified fighting force. At the time of this letter, Lee was headquartered in Coosawhatchie, South Carolina, organizing the South Atlantic coastal defenses. The Federal navy had begun a blockade of the South in July 1861, and by November 7 they had taken Fort Beauregard and Fort Walker. These victories led to the fall of Port Royal Island and then the occupation of the Sea Islands along South Carolina's coast. Governor F. W. Pickens was particularly invested in equipping and deploying South Carolina troops. He had begun to raise an infantry regiment before the firing on Fort Sumter, believing correctly that the forts on Charleston harbor would not be easily abandoned by the north. After the war began in earnest, he continued to work vigorously for South Carolina's defense. An important letter originally from the papers of Governor Francis Pickens. Original folds, toning on right and bottom of first page, very small hole causing inconsequential loss of two letters on page three ("re" of "there") and one letter ("S" of "Servant") on page four. A light ink smear affects the "R" in Lee's signature, else fine.


    More Information:

    Transcript:

     

    "Headquarters / Coosawhatchie S.C. / 27th Decem. 1861
    His Excell'cy F. W. Pickens / Govr. of So Carolina / Columbia
    Govr.


    I have had the honor to receive your letter of the 20th inst: In a previous letter I endeavored to express to your Excell'cy, my entire willingness to arm certain companies of regiments already in the service named by you, provided any arms remained after arming the regiments being organized for the war. But I cannot issue to them arms, before the arming of the regiments is completed.


    If the companies of Capn Blains, Mc.Cord & Rims, which I understand are for the war and attached by you to [P. F.] Steven's Legion, were assigned to the Batt. commanded by Lieut Col [J.V.] Moore which embraces the six companies attached to [James L.] Orr's reg't, this Battn. wd. only require one company for the formation of a reg't & might then be armed with the Enfield Rifle. My object is to make the [2] arms available for the defence of the State, as soon as possible and I hope your Excell'cy will aid me in this.


    Major James battn. has been ordered to report to Genl. [Nathan] Evans, who is in great need of troops. Genl. [Roswell S.] Ripley informs me that Cols Elford & Means reg'ts will not be able to take the field for some days. In the mean time he has sent forward Col. Steven's legion to reinforce Gen. Evans.


    The enemy is making demonstrations ag'st Wadmalaw Is'd, and our force there is not strong enough to resist him.


    Since your letter authorising me to take command of the State Troops in the field, I have felt no hesitation in doing so. Previously although aware that certain forces were called into service and placed under the command of Gen Ripley, I did not know where or how it was designed to use them. According to the last returns received, the number of troops mustered in Confed. Service from So. Carolina, within the Dept:, present for duty, is 10.036, including offrs. non comd. Offs. &P'vts [3]


    The strength of the 4h. Brigade S.C. Militia (D Saussures), present for duty, inclu'dg Offs., non: comd. Offs. & pv'ts is reported to be 1.531. Its total strength present and absent is 2.021, and differs from the number stated in your Excellency's letter, which is 3.420.


    The strength of Col. Martin's regiment in the field, by the last returns, is 628. The number reported for duty including Offs. non: comd. Offs. & pvts is 567.

    The number of troops in Confed. States service, as stated above (10.036), does not include the reg'ts of Col's Elford & Means, the Laurens Battn. & the other companies mentioned in your letter, which have arrived since the Return's were made. In addition to this force, there are two reg'ts from No. Ca. , two from Tenne., one from Virg'a and four field Batteries. My object is to inform your Ex'cy of the amount of the force for actual service in the State. You must however bear in mind that the garrisons for the forts at Georgetown, of Ft. Moultrie, Fts. Sumter, Johnson, Castle Pinckney & the field works for the defence of the approaches through Stono, Wappo &c [4] which embrace the best and steadiest of our troops, cannot be removed from their posts and must not therefore be included in the force for operations in the field. The strength of the enemy, as far as I am able to judge, exceeds the whole force that we have in the State; it can be thrown with great celerity against any point, and far outnumbers any force we can bring against it in the field.

    I am with the highest esteem / Your obt. servant
    R E Lee / Genl. Comdg

    [Docket:]

     

    Genl Lee to Gov'r / about So Ca Troops / Dec'r 27th 1861.

    [Endorsement by Pickens on p. 4:]
    "Genl. Gist will - see that Genl. Lee puts the force from this Ste into Confederate service at 10,036 -- does this include the garrisons at the forts or not - does it include Manigault's rgts at Georgetown of 12 companies 1148 -men. Please make the true state of things appear.


    The return of DeSaussure's Brigade was last number 3,400 & this included all - I only
    meant as its number, but I knew only about 1600 were ever out.


    F W Pickens / 29. Decr. 1861
    Let me know & Moses will copy for to be sent into the Convention.
    F W P"

     

    Francis Wilkinson Pickens (1805-1896) practiced law in South Carolina before serving in the state legislature (1832-1834) and the U.S. House of Representatives (1834-1843), where he supported slavery and states' rights, and as minister to Russia (1858-1860). He was elected governor of South Carolina in 1860, favoring secession. When the war began, his efforts to defend the state against Union attack were criticized publicly, leading to the creation of an executive council that assumed much of his power before his term ended in 1862.


    Roswell S. Ripley (1823-1887) served in the U.S. Army during the Mexican War. Despite Northern birth, Ripley served in the Army of South Carolina, participating in the bombardment of Fort Sumter. He served in the Army of Northern Virginia, fighting in several major engagements. After being criticized for his role at Antietam, Ripley returned to the defense of Charleston. He later surrendered with Lee at Appomattox.


    William D. De Saussure resigned from the 1st U.S. Cavalry on March 1, 1861. He served as aide-de-camp to Brig. Gen. R. G. M. Dunovant, South Carolina Army, during operations against Fort Sumter in April 1861. He fought at Gettysburg as a colonel in the 15th Regiment, South Carolina Infantry, and at Fredericksburg in December 1863.


    Nathan George Evans (1824-1868) was one of the South's earliest military heroes, resigning from the U.S. cavalry after secession to join the South Carolina cavalry. He was promoted to brigadier general in the fall of 1861. He fought with distinction at Bull Run, and then joined Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. Evans fought well at Second Manassas, South Mountain, and Antietam but was later court-martialed for persistent drunkenness. He returned to South Carolina, rejoined the Army, and surrendered with President Jefferson Davis in 1865.


    Robert E. Lee (1807-1870), out of loyalty to his home state of Virginia, declined Lincoln's offer to command the Union army. Lee resigned from the US army on April 20, 1861. Governor John Letcher appointed him to command all military and naval forces in Virginia. He was defeated at Philippi on June 3rd, the first land engagement of the Civil War. He spent the summer commanding the scattered forces defending the western counties with little success. Lee lost the Battle of Cheat Mountain in mid-September 1861, ending Confederate control of the area. He returned to Richmond as a scapegoat. Sent to South Carolina to assess the coastal defenses, in March 1862, Jefferson Davis named Lee his chief military adviser. In June 1 Lee was given command of the Army of Northern Virginia, leading one of the greatest campaigns in American history. By February 1865, he was named commander-in-chief of the entire Confederate army. Overcome by the North's superior numbers and resources, he surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Courthouse in 1865.

     

    States Rights Gist (1831-1864), a lawyer, served as a brigadier general from 1856 in the South Carolina militia, working to train the militiamen for war. When the state seceded from the Union, he acted as state adjutant and inspector general, acquiring weaponry and mobilizing manpower throughout the state. Early in 1862, Gist was appointed brigadier general in the Confederate Army, and assisted in the defense of the South Carolina coastline under Maj Gen John C. Pemberton. Gist was wounded in the hand in July 1864 at the Battle of Atlanta; he was mortally wounded in the chest at the Battle of Franklin and died on November 30, 1864. He is buried at Columbia, South Carolina.



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