War of the Rebellion: Serial 028 Page 0732 OPERATIONS IN N. VA., W. VA., MD., AND PA. Chapter XXXI.

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have been killed (Generals Branch and Gregg), and others are leaving, and will not be available. I waive any claim I may have to officers my peers in rank, but will take a court composed of officers of any degree.

Very respectfully,




January 12, 1863.

Major General A. P. HILL,

Commanding, &c.:

GENERAL: Your letter of the 8th instant is received. At the time the charges preferred by General Jackson were first brought to my attention, in September last, I was unable to give them a careful examination, and have no recollection of having made any indorsement indicating an opinion as to their correctness, as intimated in your letter of the 30th September.

I do not think that in every case where an officer is arrested there is a necessity for a trial by a court-martial, and I consider your one in which such a proceeding is unnecessary.

A commanding officer has the right to make an arrest, and to release the office arrested without prosecuting the matter further, when, in his judgment, the exigencies of the service require such a course. An arrest is often resorted to in order to give point and prominence to an expression of disapprobation, even when, in the opinion of the officer making it, the act is not one requiring a judicial investigation.

The exercise of this power may sometimes appear harsh, and in some cases may actually be so. But the power itself is one too important and essential to the maintenance of discipline to be denied because it may be abused. In the present instance, General Jackson exerted this authority for what he thought at the time good and sufficient reasons. He exercisers a discretion which you or any other commanding officer must use, and which, I have said above, must be committed to superior officers for the good of the service.

In deciding whether the supposed offense is one which the rights of the person arrested of the good of the service requires to be brought before a court-martial, other considerations than those which induce the arrest must be taken into account.

Upon examining the charges in question, I am of pinion that the interests of the service that they should be tried, and have, therefore, returned them to General Jackson with an indorsement to that effect. I hope you will concur with me that their further prosecution is unnecessary, so far as you are consented, and will be of no advantage to the service.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

R. E. LEE,



January 29, [1863.]

Brigadier General R. H. CHILTON,

Asst. Adjt. and Insp. General, Army Northern Virginia:

GENERAL: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of the letter of January 12, from the commanding general. I beg leave to state