"Peculiarly distinguished among the advance guard, where all were distinguished, must be recorded . . . Private J. W. Brown, of Company F, First Georgia Regiment, who, upon hearing the order to fall back, exclaimed, 'I will give them one more shot before I leave,' and while ramming down his twenty-ninth cartridge fell dead at his post." - General Henry R. Jackson in his report of the Battle of Greenbrier River.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Great Expectations

Colonel Robert E. Lee of the United States Army,
as he appeared at the beginning of the Civil War.
Considered by many to be the best soldier in the pre-war United States Army, Robert E. Lee had been offered command of the Union Army being assembled around Washington. Unwilling to lead an army which would probably be sent against his native state of Virginia, Lee chose instead to resign his commission. Shortly thereafter he was offered command of all Virginia forces, which he accepted. When Virginia seceded from the Union and joined the Confederacy, the state troops were absorbed into the Confederate army. Lee was quickly offered the job of military advisor to President Davis.

After the disastrous retreat of General Robert S. Garnett’s Army of the Northwest from Laurel Hill, and that general’s death at Corricks Ford, General William W. Loring was ordered to Western Virginia to take command of the army. Still anxious over the state of affairs in the region, President Jefferson Davis decided that more help was needed, so he ordered his most trusted advisor to head west. Expectations were high that Lee could recover the region for the Confederacy. However, the general proceeded under the handicap of having no specific orders to take charge, rather, he was given vague instructions to oversee and advise the area commanders. Loring, who had outranked Lee in the pre-war army, and who had only been in command for a short time, viewed Lee’s arrival as a hindrance.

Undertaking a personal reconnaissance of the area, Lee began planning for an offensive which would push the Federal army back out of Western Virginia. The general had high hopes for success. The events which transpired over the month of September would dash those hopes, and cause Lee’s reputation to plummet.

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