Tuesday, May 6, 2014

May 2, 1864

May 2, 1864

---Francis Smith, the Commandant of the Virginia Military Institute, writes a letter to Maj. Gen. John C. Breckinridge, who is in command of Confederate forces in the Shenandoah Valley.  Smith offers the Corps of Cadets of VMI, and all of its resources, as reinforcements to Breckinridge, now that it is clear Gen. Franz Sigel is advancing southward up the valley with a Federal army.  He mentions Gen. Lee’s instructions to him to make his troops available for service:

Under these instructions and suggestions, I now respectfully report to you for such orders as the emergencies of the approaching campaign may call forth. The Corps of Cadets numbers an aggregate of 280, of whom 250 may be relied upon for active duty, leaving 30 as necessary guard to the Institute and as disabled. The command is organized as a battalion of infantry of four companies, and is usually accompanied by a section of artillery. It is fully equipped, except in horses, and these are impressed in case of need. We have abundance of ammunition, tents, knapsacks, shovels, and picks, and will be prepared to march at a moment's notice.

---Gen. Ulysses S. Grant issues orders for the Army of the Potomac to move beginning tomorrow, May 3, at midnight.  His plan: to steal a march, cross the Rapidan quickly, to the east of Lee’s forces near Orange Court House, and then to push south through the Wilderness into open country.  The Army of the Potomac has over 120,000 men, comprised of about 100,000 infantry, 12,000 cavalry, and nearly 10,000 artillerymen.  Facing Grant is Robert E. Lee with about 55,000 infantry, 10,000 cavalry, and about 5,500 artillerymen.  Longstreet, with 10,000 of that infantry, is farther south than the rest of the army, and might not be able to be within reach for support in case Lee’s right is attacked.
Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, USA

---Gen. Lee has concluded that Grant will move soon, and probably in the direction of Chancellorsville, in the Wilderness.  But he cannot count out a direct advance on the Orange and Alexandria railroad, pushing directly across the Rapidan at that point.  Lee has spread Stuart’s cavalry to watch all of the crossings along the river, and waits.

Gen. Robert Edward Lee, CSA

---Louisiana:  Banks’ retreating troops are still harassed as they trickle into Alexandria.  Work on the coffer dam continues apace.

---In Richmond, President Davis opens the new session of the Confederate Congress with a speech, in which he accuses the Northern soldiers of "barbarism."

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