War of the Rebellion: Serial 018 Page 0880 OPERATIONS IN N. VA., W. VA., AND MD. Chapter XXIV.

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Staunton, May 5, 1862.

W. H. TAYLOR, Assistant Adjutant-General:

SIR: Your letter of the 16th ultimo did not reach me until the 2nd instant. Pressure of business, I regret to say, has prevented an earlier answer.

I so felt the importance of having the cavalry of this district more thoroughly organized, drilled, and disciplined as to induce me to take action in the matter; but Colonel Ashby claimed that I could not interfere with his organization, as he was acting under the instructions of the late Secretary of War, Mr. Benjamin. These instructions or authority are contained in letters written on the 21st and 22nd of February last, and authorize Colonel Ashby to raise cavalry, infantry, and heavy artillery. Copies of these letters have been forwarded to the War Department, accompanied with the indorsed communication from Colonel Ashby and my remarks thereon. Colonel Ashby and Major Funsten are the only field officers belonging to the cavalry under Colonel Ashby. Colonel Ashby reports that there has never been any regimental organization of any part of his command. When I took steps for organizing, drilling, and disciplining the cavalry both of its field officers sent in their resignations, and such was Colonel Ashby's influence over his command that I became well satisfied that if I persisted in my attempt to increase the efficiency of the cavalry it would produce the contrary effect, as Colonel Ashby's influence, who is very popular with his men, would be thrown against me.

Under these circumstances I regained taking further action in the matter (as I was in the face of the enemy) until the War Department should have an opportunity of acting in the case.

Colonel Ashby reports twenty-one companies of cavalry, but he includes a number of men who re-enlisted from the infantry with the understanding that they should serve in the cavalry, but I have uniformly prohibited such re-enlistments, as it is important that men should continue in that arm in which they have been serving. At present there is no field officer on duty with the cavalry referred to, as Colonel Ashby and Major Funsten are both sick. It is important that the cavalry should be organized into regiments at the earliest practicable moment.

I am, sir, your obedient servant,




RICHMOND, May 7, 1862.

Respectfully referred to the Secretary of War, with the request that explicit instructions be given in reference to the command of Colonel Ashby and its organization. I did not know before that Colonel Ashby's command embraced more than cavalry, which I have been endeavoring to get organized and instructed.

R. E. LEE,


HEADQUARTERS, Richmond, Va., May 5, 1862.*

Major General R. S. EWELL, Commanding, &c., Swift Run Gap:

GENERAL: The brigade of General Branch, of North Carolina troops,


*The true date of this letter was probably May 15. It was received by Ewell May 17.