Headquarters Army of Northern Virginia,
Leesburg, Va., September 5, 1862
His Excellency President Davis, Richmond, Va.:
Mr. President: As I have already had the honor to inform you, this army is about entering Maryland, with a view of affording the people of that State an opportunity of liberating themselves. Whatever success may attend that effort, I hope, at any rate, to annoy and harass the enemy. The army being transferred to this section, the road to Richmond, through Warrenton, has been abandoned as far back as Culpeper Court-House, and all trains are directed to proceed by way of Luray and Front Royal from Culpeper Court-House to Winchester. I desire that everything coming from Richmond may take that route, or any nearer one turning off before reaching Culpeper Court-House. Notwithstanding the abandonment of the line, as above mentioned, I deem it important that as soon as the bridge over the Rapidan shall be completed, that over the Rappahannock should be constructed as soon as possible, and I have requested the president of the road to have timber prepared for that purpose. My reason for desiring that this bridge shall be repaired is, that in the event of falling back it is my intention to take a position about Warrenton, where, should the enemy attempt an advance on Richmond, I should be on his flank; or, should he attack me, I should have a favorable country to operate in, and, bridges being repaired, should be in full communication with Richmond.
I have had all the arms taken in the late battles collected as far as possible, and am informed that about 10,000 are now at Gainesville. All empty trains returning to Rapidan are ordered to take in arms at Gainesville to transport to Rapidan. They should be sent at once to Richmond to be put in order, as arms may be needed in Maryland. I desire that Colonel Gorgas will send some one to take charge of these arms at once, as the cavalry regiments now on duty in the vicinity of Gainesville will have to be withdrawn.
We shall supply ourselves with provisions and forage in the country in which we operate, but ammunition must be sent from Richmond. I hope that the Secretary of War will see that the Ordnance Department provides ample supplies of all kinds. In forwarding the ammunition it can be sent in the way above designated for the other trains, or it can be sent to Staunton, and thence by the Valley road to Winchester, which will be my depot. It is not yet certain that the enemy have evacuated the valley, but there are reports to that effect, and I have no doubt that they will leave that section as soon as they learn of the movement across the Potomac. Any officer, however, proceeding toward Winchester with a train will, of course, not move without first ascertaining that the way is clear. I am now more desirous that my suggestion as to General Loring’s movements shall be carried into effect as soon as possible, so that with the least delay he may move to the lower end of the valley, about Martinsburg, and guard the approach in that direction. He should first drive the enemy from the Kanawha Valley, if he can, and afterward, or if he finds he cannot accomplish that result, I wish him to move by way of Romney toward Martinsburg and take position in that vicinity.
I have the honor to be, with high respect, 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. 19, Part 2, pp. 593-594
Transcribed by Colin Woodward, 2016 September 2