Letter from Governor Francis W. Pickens to President Jefferson Davis regarding General Robert E. Lee, November 1861

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This letter from Governor Francis W. Pickens to President Davis gives his opinion of the new general, Robert E. Lee.  Pickens writes that he approves of General Lee stating that, “I have a very high estimation of his science, patriotism and enlightened judgement.  I am also delighted with his high bred cultivated bearing. If he has a fault it is over caution, which results from his scientific mind.”  Governor Pickens also names a few South Carolina’s military leaders who would be beneficial to the Confederacy as well.


Governor Francis W. Pickens to President Jefferson Davis.  24 November 1861.  S511001.  Letters, Telegrams, and Proclamations.  Governor Francis W. Pickens papers.  South Carolina Department of Archives and History, Columbia, South Carolina.


Governor Pickens to President Davis as to General Lee


State of South Carolina
Head Quarters
November 24th 1861

To President Davis – Richmond, Va.—

                        My dear Sir

            I take this opportunity to say, from the interviews I have had with General Lee, that I have a very high estimation of his science, patriotism and enlightened judgement.  I am also delighted with his high bred cultivated bearing. If he has a fault it is over caution, which results from his scientific mind.  I admit, however, the post he is at eminently suits his attainments and character.  If he had some man like General Evans to make guerilla dashes, it might be of great importance to him, particularly if the enemy land in large force upon the Coast, with a view to permanent interior invasion.  Evans would then suit, as from the impressive rivers and swamps if our lower Country, it is difficult to manage a very large body of troops at any one time.  If they fix their line of progress thru Stono or Edisto, then large bodies can be brought to act against on John’s or James’ Islands.  Ripley is unfit for anything, but to fight in batteries, and to fight such a fort as Sumter, with eighty-nine guns, and with mortars of the largest caliber, there is no man his superior – Drayton is the best and purest of men, and very conscientious, but has none of the higher attributes of a General, for his nature is to hesitate and become rather confused.  No man I esteem higher in all the relations of a friend and a gentleman, but he has become so long used to officer pursuits that the regulars and the decision if active field duties do not suit him.  Between him and Ripley, there are, besides, the most unpleasant feelings, and they can never act in harmony.  I therefore think, if the appointment of Clingman can be made compatible with the public service, it would produce the best effects.  You will unquestionably require another appointment, if the forces are raised to thirty thousand, as they right to be.   Trapier, you know, is now ordered to Florida.  If you do not appoint Clingman, then you should send down, as soon as possible, as thorough General, who will take command of details more than Lee can possibly do.  And who will combine undoubted military talent with a high and intrepid character.  I rather think (but in this I may be mistaken) that the next movement if the enemy will be upon Brunswick (pg. 2) or perhaps Savannah, Georgia, and in that case Lee will be called off there, and a thorough General will be very much needed in and along our whole coast.  We need more gun powder for our heavy ordinance, and I trust you will order Lee to retain atleast [sic] twenty five thousand pounds of that which came in on the Fingal. I think I have enough musket and rifle powder, and of course all the supplies in the State shall be freely given, as they have been heretofore, without calculation.  I am surely distressed as to the want of arms, particularly as I have out to Tennessee, North Carolina, Florida, and even to Fredericksburg in Virginia, freely from the first, besides the arms I sent with our troops, and I was induced to believe that I would be supplied by fall.  I know we would be invaded, as soon as post fell, if there was no movement made by our Army on the Potomac.  I know you will pardon my writing thus freely, for the times are serious, and I owe it to you as well as to my State to unite freely and fully, but confidentially.

With great esteem

Yours very truly

Signed F.W. Pickens

Correlating SC Social Studies Academic Standards:

Standard 4-6: The student will demonstrate an understanding of the Civil War and its impact on America.

Indicator 4-6.5 Compare the roles and accomplishments of key figures of the Civil War, including Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant, Jefferson Davis, and Robert E. Lee.

Additional Flash Versions:

Pickens-Davis Letter 1 Pickens-Davis Letter 2


Related Documents:

A.G. Magrath Letter to J.W. Hayne concerning Fort Sumter

Pickens Proclamation

Letters between Governor Francis W. Pickens and President James Buchanan


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