Two Miles from Fredericktown, Md., September 7, 1862
General Gustavus W. Smith,
Commanding, &c., Richmond, Va.:
General: I have received your letter of the 1st instant, reporting the condition of affairs at Suffolk, New Kent, Fredericksburg, &c. I do not think the enemy will be able to maintain a large force south of James River, and unless prevented by the enemy’s gunboats you will be able to retake Norfolk. I feel convinced that their land force at that point will be small. I have thought of suggesting to you the advantages of strengthening and reoccupying old Fort Powhatan, as opportunity may offer. It will extend your command of James River, and stop the ascent of the enemy’s boats and depredations upon the river banks, &c. It could be held by the Navy, and as soon as the Richmond is completed will enable her to clear out the river. Every effort should now be made to complete the Richmond immediately, and heavy guns could now be prepared for Powhatan at the Tredegar Works. We must leave no stone unturned to expel the enemy from our borders. I have seen official accounts of the complete evacuation of Fredericksburg, and official reports from the valley state that Winchester was abandoned on the night of September 2. General White, commanding at that place, is stated to have retired into Pennsylvania. I think the enemy will concentrate about Washington. I hope you will make every effort to collect available troops on the James River and Rappahannock, so as to protect Richmond and cover the country. You must expect to be annoyed by the fleet of the enemy.
I am, 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, p. 599
Transcribed by Colin Woodward, 2016 September 5