Numbers 79. Reports of General Robert E. Lee, C. S. Army, commanding Army of Northern Virginia, of Early's operations June 23-July 26.
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF NORTHERN VIRGINIA,
July 19, 1864.
SIR: I have the honor to transmit herewith the report of General Early of his late operations in the Valley and in Maryland.*
In forwarding this report I deem it proper to state briefly for the information of the Department the object of detaching the force under General Early. I think, however, that it would not be prudent to give publicity to this statement at the present time. Finding that it would be necessary to detach some troops to repel the force under General Hunter, which was threatening Lynchburg, I resolved to send one that would be adequate to accomplish that purpose effectually, and, if possible, strike a decisive blow. At the same time General Early was instructed, if his success justified it, and the enemy retreated down the Valley, to pursue him, and, if opportunity offered, to follow him into Maryland. It was believed that the Valley could then be effectually freed from the presence of the enemy, and it was hoped that by threatening Washington and Baltimore General Grant would by compelled either to weaken himself so much for their protection as to afford us an opportunity to attack him, or that he might be induced to attack us. After the retreat of General Hunter toward Western Virginia his pursuit by General Early was attended with great difficulty, owing to the obstacles in the way of supplying our troops. At the same time the presence of General Hunter's forces in the Kanawha Valley endangered important interests in Southwestern Virginia. It was thought that the readiest way to draw him from that region would be to push down the Valley and enter Maryland, and at the same time it was hoped that the other advantages of such an invasion before alluded to might be secured. In addition to these considerations there were other collateral results, such as obtaining military stores and supplies, that were deemed of sufficient importance to warrant the attempt.
General Early's report will explain his operations, and the value of the results obtained need not be further stated at present, as there are yet some to be expected in the future. I may, however, say that so far as the movement was intended to relieve our territory in that section of the enemy, it had up to the present time been successful.
R. E. LEE,
Honorable SECRETARY OF WAR, Richmond.
Near Petersburg, July 20, 1864.
General Early reports that the enemy crossed the Shenandoah at Snicker's on the 18th at 3 p. m. ; were attacked and driven across the river in confusion, Rodes' division making the main attack. Our loss is stated to be between 200 and 300; that of the enemy much greater. The enemy's force was reported to be Hunter's, the Sixth Corps, and two divisions of the Nineteenth Corps.
R. E. LEE.
Honorable JAMES A. SEDDON, Secretary of War.
* See p. 347.