Richmond Dispatch article - Robert E. Lee, July 9, 1862
From the Richmond Dispatch, 7/9/1862
The rise which this officer has suddenly taken in the public confidence is without a precedent. At the commencement of the war he enjoyed the highest reputation of any officer on the continent. But his fame was considerably damaged by the result of his campaign over the mountains. The public was unable to estimate the difficulties with which he was surrounded, and was displeased with him because he did not accomplish what we are now convinced must have been an impossibility.--We confess we were of the number who allowed our previously high estimation of Gen. Lee to be considerably shaken, if not altogether overthrown, by the result of that expedition. It was not until he was placed in a situation in which he had an opportunity to display his great abilities that he was enabled to teach the country and ourselves, as humble sons of the country, the folly of forming sudden judgments upon premises not sufficiently established.
The operations of Gen. Lee in the short campaign which is just over, were certainly those of a master. No Captain that ever lived could have planned or executed a better campaign. It was perfect in all its parts and will be set down hereafter as among the models which the military student will be required to study. His first labor was to render the city impregnable, which he accomplished so successfully that, in the opinion of military men, it could not be taken by double the force McClellan could bring against it. His next was to provide for the dispersion of the enormous force which threatened it from the Chickahominy. How was this to be done? To attack their fortifications in front was only to throw away the lives of his soldiers. To turn them with the force which he had under him here were an enterprise of infinite difficulty, since he would be compelled, in doing so, to expose his own flank, during the cross march. In this dilemma, he fell upon the bold and original plan of bringing Jackson down upon their right flank and rear. But it was of the last importance to conceal this intended operation until the very last moment. The plan he devised was in the highest degree ingenious. It was generally believed that Jackson, after crushing Fremont and Shields, was to march into the enemy's country and transfer the war to his own fireside. Means were taken to encourage that belief, and one of then was to send heavy reinforcements to the Valley. When these had reached their destination, and everybody was expecting to hear the sound of Jackson's cannon on the Susquehanna, the public were electrified by the magnificent reconnaissance of Gen. Stuart. From that reconnaissance Lee learned all that he wished further to know, and while the public was still discussing the utility of an operation so full of hazard, the news arrived that Jackson had sent to Lynchburg for all the cars, that he was at Staunton, that he was at Gordonsville, that he was at Louisa Court-House, that he was at Hanover Court-House, with all his army. The truth then burst upon the public in its full effulgence. The enemy were to be attacked in flank and rear by Jackson's army at the same time that they were to be assailed in front by Lee with the main bulk of his army. The plan was worthy of the most renowned General that over lived, and even while it was in the very agony of projection, and had not yet been tried, no man doubted its entire success. It did succeed beyond all reasonable hope, even of so wisely conceived an well-digested an operation. Its success places its author among the highest military names — on the same roll with the Hannibal, the Caesars, the Fredericks, and the Napoleons of history.
The perfect success which attended the efforts of Lee to keep the march of Jackson from the knowledge of the enemy is among the marvels of these marvellous operations. The writer of this was aware that Jackson was on the march for Richmond as early as last Sunday fortnight, when he heard that he was already at Gordonsville with a portion of his forces. It is scarcely possible that fewer than then thousand persons knew the same thing at the same time. And yet not a soul was found to betray the secret to the enemy, and he was taken, at last, completely by surprise! Was there ever such unanimity of opinion as this circumstance reveals? Where is the Union party that were to show themselves as soon as the enemy made his appearance in force?
Posted By: Joe Elia