Maj. Gen. Robert E. Lee to Col. Philip St. George Cocke Clarifying the Latter’s Rank and Command

28 11 2020



O. R. – Series I – VOLUME 2 [S #2] CHAPTER IX, pp. 836-837

Headquarters Virginia Forces,
Richmond, Va., May 13,1861.

Col. P. St. George Cocke,
Comdg. Virginia Forces, Hdqrs. Culpeper Court-House, Va.:

Colonel: I have just received your letter of the 12th instant, and hasten to give such explanation as I can of the circumstances to which it refers. Your change of rank has resulted from the action of the Convention. Before the termination of its session an ordinance was passed requiring all appointments in the military service by the governor to be submitted to the Convention for confirmation. The Convention also determined, as I have understood, to reduce the number of the higher grades in the service, which resulted in the renomination by the governor, by and with the advice of the council, of several officers for appointments to grades one degree lower than those to which they had been originally appointed. General Gwynn’s, General Johnston’s, General Ruggles’, yours, and others were of this number. Another ordinance of the Convention gave to officers of the Provisional Army rank above those of the volunteer forces of the same grade, and subjected them to duty with the volunteers until required for service with the Provisional Army. Colonel Ruggles and Colonel Terrett having been appointed in the Provisional Army, it was incumbent on me to recognize their rank. It therefore became necessary to change your command, which I did with regret. Of the circumstances attending it I supposed you were cognizant, as the action of the Convention, I think, occurred before your last visit to this city.

When Colonel Jackson was sent to Harper’s Perry, it was to muster into service the companies there assembled, with a view of organizing a force as rapidly as possible to hold that point. Hence he was not directed to report in person to you on his route, as that would have occasioned delay, though it was well understood that Harper’s Ferry was embraced within your command. At the present time, as well as for the reasons given in Special Orders, No. 39, it was deemed advisable to give to the commander at Harper’s Ferry command of that station, without reference to any other question. I hope you will perceive, from the foregoing explanation, which has been necessarily brief, that the change in your command was dictated by necessity and not by choice. In assigning the officers within your former district to their present posts, I was guided entirely by the convenience of the service and a desire to hasten the organization of the troops. It is temporary, and designed to meet the exigencies of the occasion. As to yourself, I desired to have the benefit of your knowledge of the troops and officers called from the extensive country assigned to you, in their organization and equipment, and hoped the service would be as agreeable to you as I believe it will be beneficial to the public. Recognizing as fully as I do your merit, patriotism, and devotion to the State, I do not consider that either rank or position are necessary to bestow upon you honor, but believe that you will confer honor on the position. In the present crisis of affairs, I know that your own feelings, better than any words of mine, will point out the best course for you to pursue to advance the cause in which you are engaged, and to promote the interests of the service, which you have so much at heart, and will leave to the voice of your fellow-citizens to assign to you the position you deserve.

I am, with high respect and esteem, your obedient servant,

R. E. LEE, Major-General.

Maj. Gen. Robert E. Lee and Col. Thomas J. Jackson Discuss Policy Regarding Maryland

28 11 2020



O. R. – Series I – VOLUME 2 [S #2] CHAPTER IX, pp. 832-833, 836

Division Hdqrs., Harpers Ferry, Va., May 11, 1861.

Maj. Gen. R. E. Lee :

General: The precautions mentioned in your letter of the 6th instant have been under consideration for some time, and some of them have been taken; others are progressing as rapidly as the circumstances admit of. Arrangements are complete for a desperate defense at Point of Rocks. I have troops also at Berlin, Shepherdstown, and Martinsburg. Marylanders, with artillery, are opposite Shepherdstown, and have threatened us there to such an extent as to induce the officer stationed there to call on me for artillery; and though I can poorly spare it, yet, under the circumstances, I must comply. Previous to receiving your letter I had authorized the payment of $5 for the best arms, and graded pieces below that. My report for yesterday* will show the strength of the command. I can get enough volunteers from the counties named to swell the force to probably four thousand five hundred; but they are without arms, accouterments, and ammunition. Please send me five thousand good muskets and rifles, with complete equipments. Also full equipments for three hundred cavalry, and an additional light battery more than those called for in my last. Make this the depot for the northwest. Grafton should be occupied at once. Col. J. M. Bennett will deliver this to you, and give important information respecting the northwest. The quartermaster, Mr. John A. Harman, of this post, should not be removed, if it can possibly be avoided. Please have him appointed and retained, if practicable. I had difficulty in inducing him to remain; but, if the appointment be sent to him, I think he will continue here.

Please to forward the arms at once, and all troops and supplies destined for Harper’s Perry. I respectfully request they may be sent at once. Have no fear of this place being surprised.

Your most obedient servant,

Colonel, Virginia Volunteers, Commanding.

*Not found.

Headquarters Virginia Forces,
Richmond, Va., May 12,1861.

Col. T. J. Jackson,
Commanding, &c., Harper’s Ferry, Va.:

Colonel : I have just received your letter of the 11th instant, by Colonel Bennett. I am concerned at the feeling evinced in Maryland, and fear it may extend to other points, besides opposite Shepherdstown. It will be necessary, in order to allay it, that you confine yourself to a strictly defensive course. I presume the points occupied by you at Point of Bocks, Berlin, and Shepherdstown are on our side. I am glad to hear that volunteers are assembling. Over two thousand arms have already been sent to you, and one thousand more have been ordered this evening. If you only expect to receive sufficient volunteers to swell your force to four thousand five hundred men, I do not see how you can require five thousand arms, as you must now have nearly three thousand armed, besides the three thousand arms, above mentioned, ordered to you. We have no rifles or cavalry equipments. The latter may use double-barreled shot-guns and buck-shot, if no better arms can be procured. I will see to the quartermaster. I fear no field battery can be sent you besides that now preparing. The Fourth Begiment Alabama troops, from Lynchburg, have gone to you, and I have ordered two others from the same point. Ammunition has also been ordered to you. You know our limited resources, and must abstain from all provocation for attack as long as possible.

I am, &c.,

R. E. LEE,
Major-General, Commanding.