The curious absence of Robert E. Lee, cont.

Scott Smart was moved to rummage through some books at hand and he posted his findings to the comments section of Harry's blog. I want to run his comments without interjections except to emphasize nothing in what follows contradicts Smith's account of how Lee took up his duties so long after he was ordered to take immediate command:
I looked at the WC Davis bio of J Davis, and he provides some info re Smith’s problems, but on first reading at least it seemed a little like the “Davis must have known” sort of thing. There were some notes so I looked at J Davis’ “Rise and Fall of the Confederate Govt v2″ and Davis lays out the timeline pretty clearly: Afternoon of 31 May he was riding along the lines with Lee and learned Johnston was out of action. He told Lee that he was to take command of the army and to make plans that evening (31 May/1 Jun). The next day (1 Jun) Davis returned to the lines and found Gen Whiting who pointed out he location of Smith’s HQ. Davis writes that he rode up to Smith to tell him he would not take command prior to Lee’s arrival to spare both embarrassment. It isn’t clear the exact embarrassment, but I guess subsequently Smith being next in seniority to Johnston, assumed he would be appointed commander and came to dislike Davis on account of this apparent slight. At any rate, Davis says Lee arrived some time later and met with Smith after Davis had left, eventually catching up with Davis and they rode together to Longstreet. Davis is clear that Lee is in command at this point. Davis makes no mention of the reason for bypassing Smith, but gives the impression that he had determined on Lee from before Johnston was wounded.

Postmaster Gen John Reagan “Memoirs” also was cited, and Reagan generally substantiates J Davis’ account. Reagan writes that when Davis (who Reagan had met) saw Johnston go by on a stretcher, he “at once gave General Lee verbal direction to take command of the army”. He then goes on to write that archives of the Dept of War show that Smith had command of the army for three days, but states this was in error and reflects the date of the written orders.

Now WC Davis gives some material on the supposed unfitness of Smith, and says that it was discussed by J Davis, W Preston Johnston and Ives the evening of the 31st which I imagine could have happened as after-the-fact of Davis’ order to Lee to take command. WC Davis references Preston Johnston’s letters to his wife which might be the place to look for comments on Smith’s mental or physical condition. At least what I could find showed no concern about Smith up to the point that Johnston was wounded, and if the timeline of J Davis and Reagan is correct, the decision was made before Smith could react to Johnston’s wounding. I have no idea of the reliability of J Davis or Reagan’s post-war writings though.