March 17, 1862
I received yesterday from Genl Holmes a letter dated 14th instant, of which the accompanying is a copy. I presume he has already communicated with you on the subject, but as the matter is briefly & distinctly stated, I have thought it might be convenient to you to consider it in the manner presented. In a letter of the 16th Genl Holmes also reports that [General Joseph] Hooker’s division had crossed the Potomac at Evansport, & that a column of five or six thousand of the enemy had reached Brentville from the direction of Manassas. Dumfries was occupied in force, but whether from Evansport or via Occuquan he did not know. He states that the enemy landed a part of his force below Chopawamsic, & marched up that creek to where it is crossed by the telegraphic road. He considers these movements indicate a purpose of the enemy to concentrate his forces for an attack on Fredericksburg, & that unless he can be defeated before reaching it, the town could not be held an hour after the occupation of the hills on the opposite bank of the river. From what is stated of the condition of the roads, I hardly think an immediate movement against Fredericksburg can be made, nor am I aware of anything that indicates with any degree of certainty what route the enemy will adopt in his march towards Richmond.
You have doubtless considered the subject with reference to your operations, & made your arrangements as to the points to be held & defended.
I am &c.
R. E. Lee
Source: The Wartime Papers of R. E. Lee, ed. by Clifford Dowdey and Louis Manarin, 131-132.
Transcribed by Colin Woodward, 2016 March 17