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    Robert E. Lee writes, "I cannot recommend the plan you propose for replacing the Texas troops in this army"

    Robert E. Lee Letter Signed. One page, 8" x 10.25", "Hd. Q. CS," March 18, 1865. Twenty-two days before his surrender to General U. S. Grant, Robert E. Lee writes this letter informing Confederate Congressman John R. Baylor of Texas ("House of Representatives / Richmond") that he's not willing to send the Texas Brigade to aid Baylor's attempt to retake the Arizona Territory. The letter is toned with some weaknesses along the smoothed folds; small chips and a few tears occur along the right edge. In full:


    Your letter of the 14th inst. is received. I cannot recommend the plan you propose for replacing the Texas troops in this army. It would break up organized commands in the West, and give us an unorganized body of men here of little value. I think such a course would be injurious to the service. If two or three good regiments could be sent over, it would be better in every respect. If there be in the regiments selected old men, or others unfit for the duties of service here, they might be put on detached duty in Texas, or transferred to some regiments that will remain in that Department. In this way, the exchange might be made without injury, but to take men from their present commands for the purpose of sending them here, would in my opinion, reduce our strength in the Trans-Mississippi Department, and add but little to it here.

    Very respectfully
    Your obt. servt.
    [signed] R E Lee

    John R. Baylor was a passionate Texan who, before the Civil War, was known as a vigorous Indian fighter and a member of the Knights of the Golden Circle. Shortly after the outbreak of the war, he successfully invaded the New Mexico Territory with the Second Texas Mounted Rifles and carved out the Confederate Territory of Arizona of which he became governor. But shortly thereafter when Union troops approached the territorial capital of Mesilla in July 1862, the Confederate territorial government fled to Texas. From there, Baylor was elected to represent Texas in the Second Confederate Congress in Richmond. Growing ever more desperate as the South crumbled in early 1865, Confederate President Jefferson Davis appointed Baylor a colonel in early March and authorized him to create a mounted brigade of Texans to retake the Arizona Territory. With those orders in hand, Colonel Baylor, still in Richmond, wrote General Lee, who had recently been promoted to general-in-chief of all Confederated forces, with a plan to exchange non-Texans for the famed Texas Brigade under Lee's command.

    This letter is Lee's response, a chilly no. The general was in no condition to shift troops around, a move which he deemed would be "injurious to the service" by bringing an "unorganized body of men . . . of little value" into his Army of Northern Virginia, which was already weakened by disease, supply shortages, desertion, and General Grant. Moreover, General Sherman threatened to disrupt Lee's valuable supply line from North Carolina. Lee needed the Texas Brigade.

    Also known as Hood's Brigade (John Bell Hood had commanded the brigade for a six-month period), the Texas Brigade was comprised of the 1st, 4th, and 5th Texas infantry regiments, along with the 3rd Arkansas, and had been part of the Army of Northern Virginia throughout the war. Formed in October 1861, the brigade was the only Texas troops to participate east of the Mississippi. As part of Lee's army, they had fought with honor in thirty-eight skirmishes and battles, including Antietam, Gettysburg, and Chickamauga. At the Wilderness, they were personally led in a charge by General Lee. When Richmond fell to Union troops fourteen days after Lee wrote this letter, the Texans served as a buffer between Lee's retreating army and the Union army. Finally, when Lee surrendered to General Grant at Appomattox Court House on April 9, 600 of the original 4,400 Texans were there. Baylor never raised his needed troops.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    March, 2011
    12th Saturday
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