On June 5, 1862, as he settled into his new command of the Confederate army outside Richmond, Robert E. Lee contemplated his next moves. For starters, he put his men to the shovel building defensive fortifications—a course of action that earned him immediate derision from nearly everyone. Men began to call him “Granny Lee” and the King of Spades.” Undeterred, Lee urged them to keep working.
He also considered the other pieces available to him on the chessboard. In the Valley, Stonewall Jackson had not yet scored the twin victories at Cross Keys and Port Republic, but the series of wins he’d already notched had drawn considerable attention.
On that fifth day of June, Lee put some of his thoughts on paper for President Jefferson Davis. The dispatch, I think, offers some interesting insights about Lee:
After much reflection I think if it was possible to reinforce Jackson strongly, it would change the character of the war. This can only be done by the troops in Georgia, South Carolina & North Carolina. Jackson could in that event cross Maryland into Pennsylvania. It would call all the enemy from our Southern coast & liberate those states. If these states will give up their troops I think it can be done….
Our people are opposed to work. Our troops, officers, community & press. All ridicule & resist it. It is the very means by which McClellan has & is advancing. Why should we leave him the whole advantage of labor. Combined with valour, fortitude & boldness, of which we have our fair proportion, it should lead us to success. What carried the Roman soldiers into all countries, but this happy combination. The evidences of their labour last to this day. There is nothing so military as labour, & nothing so important to an army as to save the lives of its soldiers.
— Robert E. Lee, The Wartime Papers of Robert E. Lee, edited by Clifford Dowdey and Louis H. Manarin (New York: Da Capo, 1961), 183-184.