Letter, Charles C. Lee to Lane (March 3, 1862)

Head Qrs Post of Neuse
March 3d 1862

Dear Colonel:

It would give me much pleasure to be under General Anderson for I consider him to be a man of most excellent sense, though I know nothing whatever of his military attainments, but I feel that our present Brig. is totally devoid of such knowledge , and I fear is more fond of his own position than the best interests of the service, though I may be doing him great injustice, this is entre nous. He says he considers this one of the most important points in the Southern Confederacy, and that to preserve it from any fear of capture is far more important than the [reenlistment] of all the Regiments in the Command. Now I think that if we were to leave the place the enemy would never come here, at all, for should they do so, and stay here a month or two they would be so badly [fleeced], that they would be most happy to withdraw their forces, and retire to their homes for the shopkeepers here can beat the yankees 2 to 1 at that trade. The entire value of the property of New Berne & vicinity just about equals the expenditure necessarily
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incurred in keeping the force (8000 men) here for one year. I cannot see the military importance of this position, for it is only Fort Macon that gives it any military value, & the enemy can cut off that Fort without attacking New Berne at all. My idea is, that we render it important by keeping such a force here. I should recommend that 500 men be left at Fort Macon (a full war garrison) & they be provisioned for 12 months, all the rolling stock of the A. & N.C.R.R. removed whenever the enemy makes his appearance, if at all, and all the rest of the forces withdrawn and sent where they are needed, except perhaps a few guns to detain them a few minutes, till a small infantry force has time to destroy the bridge over the Neuse at Kingston and offer other very easy obstructions to an advance movement of the foe. Everything now tends to the investment of Norfolk, there will be a battle at Suffolk in about 2 or 3 weeks and within a month an attempt will be made to invest the City of Norfolk. The [design] of an attack on Norfolk is to clear the way for opperations on the south side of the James river, against Petersburg & Richmond. So long as we undertake to defend every little village and hamlet which entertains an exalted opinion of its own importance, so long we are destined
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to disaster and defeat, and though Napoleon said that for a General to determine the initiative of a great battle was to assume a most terrible responsibility, still if we would succeed we must assume such responsibility and not suffer the enemy longer to choose his own time and place for attacking us, we must determine when & where to attack the enemy ourselves, and give up this foolish defensive (total) policy. You are fortunate in having an engineer of real merit, as Captain Meade, whereas I think ours is worse than none at all, though he really has the title of Major. I would much prefer being at Wilmington to being here, though now it is not unpleasant, except the idea of being of no value while the Country needs troops so much, which are drilled. I think Butler's expedition is to move up James river provided they are successful at Norfolk and the [mortal] fleet is destined I think for Craney Island and Pig's Point to attack the City by water while Burnside attacks in rear. I saw a gentleman day-before-yesterday, just from Savannah who says the people are not at all alarmed there, but have, most implicit confidence in General Lee, (I don't know whether he thought we were relatives or not). It is a fearful responsibility where one is so much confided in. It would be difficult for you to turn
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a lady's man at this late era in the world's history for you have been such ever since I knew you. Roanoke is incomprehensible. The surrender at Donolson difficult to understand, as 3 or 4 thousand men got away. I think [every] commanding officer who surrenders any considerable body of men in the field, should be shot. We are all well, and the Regiment's tolerable. My respects to Gen. Anderson when you see him. I hope we may be thrown together some time before the War closes.
I am Colonel
as ever Your friend
Charles C. Lee