Headquarters Army of Northern Virginia
November 10, 1863
Mr. President: I have seen with pleasure the announcement of your return to Richmond, after a journey which I hope has proved as beneficial to yourself as I am persuaded it has been to the country.
After my letter written from Bristoe Station, in pursuance of the purpose therein indicated, the army returned to the line of the Rappahannock, having destroyed the Orange and Alexandria Railroad from Cub Run to the river. The enemy immediately began to repair the railroad, advancing his army as the work progressed, until he reached Warrenton Junction, where he halted for a short time. His movement from that point toward Rappahannock Station and Kelly’s Ford was subsequently reported. With the view of deterring him, if possible, from advancing farther into the interior this winter, I caused the works he had constructed on the north side of the river, near the bridge, which we had laid down at this point, constructing at the same time lines of rifle-pits on each side of the stream. Four pieces of artillery were placed in the redoubt on the north bank and eight others in a similar work on the south side, the rest having been sent farther back, to obtain pasturage for the animals. Hays’ brigade was in the rifle-pits on the north side of the river, and upon learning the approach of the enemy on Saturday, the 7th instant, Hoke’s, with the exception of one regiment, previously detached, was ordered to re-enforce it. The rest of Early’s division was brought down to occupy the south bank east of the railroad, and Anderson’s the line of hills along the river on the same side, west of the road. Rode’s division was stationed at Kelly’s Ford.
The enemy began by a demonstration with two corps at the latter place, where he effected a passage, the ground being unfavorable for us, much resembling the country at Fredericksburg. A line was selected, however, farther back, on which it had been supposed that we would be able to check his advance in that direction.
In the afternoon the enemy’s artillery opened upon our lines at the bridge, and a force, estimated to be three army corps, was deployed in our front, massing behind a range of hills parallel to the river, and out of reach of our guns. After dark this force advanced, and succeeded in overcoming the troops that held the rifle-pits, and captured the four pieces of artillery in the redoubt on that side.
I have called for an official report of the affair, which I will forward to you as soon as received. I am unable at this time to give further particulars. General Hays and some of his officers with about 600 men escaped.
Finding that we would not be able to maintain our position, with the enemy in possession of the works on the north side, the troops were withdrawn at night to the only tenable line, north of Culpeper, between that place and Brandy Station, which they continued to hold without molestation during Sunday, the trains being sent back toward the Rapidan. The position was not, however, a good one, and I accordingly withdrew on Sunday night to the south bank of the Rapidan, where a general battle can be delivered on more favorable terms. The army now occupies about the same position as before the recent advance.
I have the honor to be, with great respect, your obedient servant,
R. E. Lee
Source: War of the Rebellion: Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Series 1, Vol. 29, Part 1: Reports, pp. 610-611
Transcribed by Colin Woodward, 2015 November 9