Headquarters Army of Northern Virginia,
May 31, 1863.
Maj. Gen. J. E. B. Stuart,
Commanding Cavalry Division:
General: I have received your letter of 9 p.m. yesterday, with Burke’s report and New York papers, for which I am much obliged.
I am unable yet to determine what are the plans or intentions of the enemy; reports are so contradictory. I think a cavalry expedition must be on foot, unless they are moving up to Fauquier, with wagons, packs, &c., for the purpose of grazing. If you can find out this is so, and that they are in detached parties, they can easily be broken up.
Unless you see an opportunity for striking them a successful blow, when detached, I think it better to hold yourself in reserve en masse, recuperate, and at the proper time throw yourself with force on a vulnerable point, which they must disclose if they attempt another expedition. It will be important to punish them severely if they attempt an expedition within our lines, or it may become inconveniently common.
I wish I could attend the review you propose. It would give me great pleasure to see all your fine cavalry in a body. But I see no prospect of doing so at present. There is so much to be done here which I have to attend to.
There was a gun fired by the enemy about 12 o’clock last night, or so reported; and there were indications yesterday of some movement and probable crossing below Fredericksburg on his part, but everything, as far as heard from, is quiet this morning.
I cannot recall now whether the case of Lieutenant [E. M.] Ware has been acted on by me with certainty. I have no recollection of it; will refer to the subject. I regret that the case of Private Stanley has not been decided. I am not acquainted with its merits, but I recollect General Jones thought he was entitled to the horse, and in some way considered himself responsible for it. I am satisfied that no officer would desire or allow, if he could prevent it, that a soldier should be deprived of his horse. Under the circumstances, if the case is doubtful and cannot be determined, it is better to give him the benefit of the doubt or uncertainty than to keep him waiting indefinitely, as I presume he is incapacitated for duty.
This is a case, in my opinion, where possible error is better than probable wrong. I desire that the question be determined by the board at once, and the proceedings be forwarded.
On reference, I find that the proceedings in the case of Lieutenant Ware have been acted upon, the order sent to the printer, and you notified of the result.
I am, most respectfully, your obedient servant,
R. E. Lee
Source: The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Series 1, Vol. 25, Part 2, p. 844.
Transcribed by Colin Woodward, 2016 May 31