Lee Receives a New Assignment

November 5, 1861 – President Jefferson Davis reassigned General Robert E. Lee to command a new Confederate military department responsible for protecting the coastal regions of South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida.

Confederate Gen R.E. Lee | Image Credit: Wikispaces.com
Confederate Gen R.E. Lee | Image Credit: Wikispaces.com

By this time, Confederate officials knew of the Federal armada headed to attack Port Royal. Hoping to prevent that vital point from falling, Davis and Secretary of War Judah P. Benjamin created the Department of South Carolina, Georgia, and East Florida. This combined all departments already within that area into six military districts. Five were in South Carolina, and the sixth, the District of Georgia, covered both Georgia and eastern Florida.

Davis summoned Lee to a meeting on the morning of the 5th. Although “Granny” Lee’s reputation had been tarnished by his less than stellar western Virginia campaign, Davis informed him that he would be the senior officer of the new department with full administration support. The department’s new jurisdiction would, according to Benjamin, “enable him (Lee) to concentrate all our forces at any point that might be attacked.”

Lee left Richmond the next morning. Opposition to Lee coming to command was so great that Davis had to write to Governors Francis W. Pickens of South Carolina and Joseph E. Brown of Georgia assuring them that Lee was the best commander available. By that time, the Federal fleet had assembled off Port Royal and prepared to attack.



CivilWarDailyGazette.com (November 5); Freeman, Douglas Southall, Lee (Scribner, Kindle Edition, 2008), Loc 2986, 2998; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 79; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 135; Longacre, Edward G., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 303-04, 704; White, Howard Ray, Bloodstains, An Epic History of the Politics that Produced and Sustained the American Civil War and the Political Reconstruction that Followed (Southernbooks, Kindle Edition, 2012), Q461


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