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.
"Headquarters / Coosawhatchie S.C. / 27th Decem. 1861
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  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
Genl Lee to Gov'r / about So Ca Troops / Dec'r 27th 1861.
[Endorsement by Pickens on p. 4:]
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.
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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