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Letter from Gov. Zebulon Vance to Gen. Robert E. Lee, September 5, 1864


Letter from Gov. Zebulon Vance to Gen. Robert E. Lee, September 5, 1864


This correspondence between Zebulon Vance and Robert E. Lee pertains to the defense of Wilmington. It suggests that in an earlier correspondence, Governor Vance wrote to General Lee, requesting military advice. Robert E. Lee's suggestions are taken into account by Vance. The Governor also requests that a general - perhaps Gen. Beauregard - be sent in order to oversee Wilmington's defenses, which were then being overseen by W. H. C. Whiting. Vance also declares that Wilmington is of far more importance to the Confederacy than Charleston. The letter ends with an appeal to President Jefferson Davis.


Govenor Zebulon Vance


The War of Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Volume 42, Series 1, 1235.




York, Robert




Wilmington, North Carolina
Charleston, South Carolina

Original Format




General R. E. LEE,

Army of Northern Virginia:

GENERAL: Your letter in relation to the defense of Wilmington has been received.* Every aid that I can render with the militia shall be given, though I will have arms for only a portion of them. A large part of those sent me from Richmond were unserviceable, but I am having them repaired as rapidly as possible. Allow me to make a few suggestions touching the defense of that important sea-port. There are two regiments there-the Thirty-sixth and Fortieth North Carolina Regiments, Young's battalion, numbering about 2,600 effective men. They are well-drilled and disciplined, but have never been under fire, and recent events at Mobile and elsewhere have demonstrated their inefficiency to hold their own under the fierce cannonade of the enemy's fleet. I would respectfully suggest the policy of sending them to the field and supplying their places with veteran troops. A less number of tried men, I feel assured, would be far more efficient, though I do not made upon Wilmington I earnestly urge that General Beauregard should be sent there, and this not very little reposed in General Whiting. Since the affair at Petersburg the good opinion formed of that officer here by the apparent skill evident in the construction of the works around Wilmington has been dissipated to a painful extent. General Beauregard was intrusted with the defense of Charleston with the happiest results, and it cannot be denied that Wilmington is now of far more importance to the Confederacy. A great portion of my home guard is now in the field, and will be easily transferred to any point when desired. I am happy to say that several hundred deserters have already been apprehended or surrendered, and I trust to be able to get most of them in without again asking for regular soldiers.

I am, general, very truly and respectfully, your obedient servant,



HEADQUARTERS, September 10, 1864.

Respectfully submitted for perusal to His Excellency the President.

His attention is invited to the request of committing the defense of Wilmington to General Beauregard. General Beauregard is now at Wilmington examining into its defenses, armament, and garrison. He has been previously informed that it is my desire to place him in command of Wilmington or Charleston, whichever may be attacked.


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Govenor Zebulon Vance, Letter from Gov. Zebulon Vance to Gen. Robert E. Lee, September 5, 1864, Civil War Era NC, accessed July 17, 2024,