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Filing Cabinet - Civil War

Translation of Coded Dispatch Sent by Elizabeth Van Lew

FORTRESS MONROE, February 5, 1864

Secretary of War,

I send enclosed for your perusal the information I have acquired of the enemy’s forces and disposition about Richmond.  The letter commencing “Dear Sir,” on the first page, is a cipher letter to me from a lady in Richmond with whom I am in correspondence.  The bearer of the letter brought me a private token showing that he was to be trusted. . . You will see that the prisoners are to be sent away to Georgia.  Now or never is the time to strike . . . I have marked this “Private and immediate,” so that it shall at once come into your hands.
            Respectfully your obedient servant,

                                    BENJ. P. BUTLER,
                                    Maj.-Gen. Comanding

Dear Sir,

It is intended to remove to Georgia all the Federal prisoners’ butchers and bakers to go at once.  They are already known this to be true.  Are building batteries on the Danville road.  This from Quaker:  Beware of new and rash council!  Beware!  This I send you by direction of all your friends.  No attempt should be made with less than 30,000 cavalry, from 10,000 to 15,000 to support them, amounting in all to 40,000 or 45,000 troops.  Do not underrate their strength and desperation.  Forces could probably be called into action in from five to ten days’ 25,000, mostly artillery.  Hoke’s and Kemper’s brigades gone to North Carolina: Pickett’s in or about Petersburg.  Three regiments of cavalry disbanded by General Lee for want of horses.  Morgan is applying for 1,000 choice men for a raid.

NOTE:  Only one dispatch or record related to Elizabeth Van Lew has survived in the War Department records.  An inquiry addressed to the War Department received this response in 1866:  “all papers in this department relating to Miss Van Lew were taken from the files December 12, 1866, and given to her.” 

Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies.
[Series I; Vol. XXXIII, Part I, page 520]

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