Headquarters Army of Northern Virginia,
Hagerstown, Md., September 13, 1862
His Excellency President Davis, Richmond, Va.:
Mr. President: I regret that you should have exposed yourself, while indisposed, to the fatigue of travel, though I should have been highly gratified at an opportunity of conferring with you on many points. You will perceive by the printed address to the people of Maryland, which has been sent you, that I have not gone contrary to the views expressed by you on the subject. Should there be anything in it to correct, please let me know.
I have received as yet no official list of the casualties in the late battles, and, from the number of absentees from the army and the vice of straggling, a correct list cannot now be obtained. The army has been so constantly in motion, its attention has been so unremittingly devoted to what was necessary, that little opportunity has been afforded for attention to this subject. I wish your views of its operations could be realized, but so much depends upon circumstances beyond its control and the aid that we may receive, that it is difficult for me to conjecture the result. To look to the safety of our own frontier and to operate untrammeled in an enemy’s territory, you need not be told is very difficult. Every effort, however, will be made to acquire every advantage which our position and means may warrant. One great embarrassment is the reduction of our ranks by straggling, which it seems impossible to prevent with our present regimental officers. Our ranks are much diminished—I fear from a third to one-half of the original numbers—though I have reason to hope that our casualties in battles will not exceed 5,000 men.
I am glad to hear that the railroad bridge over the Rapidan is in a fair way to completion. I fear all the locomotives and cars captured at Bristoe and Manassas have been destroyed either by the enemy or ourselves. As I before stated, having only Jackson’s and Longstreet’s corps in the battle of Manassas, I was unable to spare men to save property, though I knew and felt its value.
I fear there was much suffering among the wounded, but it was impossible to prevent it. Dr. Guild, the medical director, with detachments from each brigade, was left upon the field and all the wounded committed to his care. All the means of transportation at our command were given to him, including the wagons, with directions that the wounded must receive the first attention and be sent to Warrenton. They were ordered to be forwarded thence to Gordonsville as fast as possible, and as they were able to bear the transportation.
Only one regiment of cavalry is in front of Warrenton, and that I fear my necessities will oblige me to withdraw. Unless General Smith can organize a force, and advance it, of sufficient strength to cover that section of country, it will be liable to raids from Washington and Alexandria by the enemy’s cavalry. It is a risk we must necessarily run to use the troops elsewhere.
With sincere wishes for your health and prosperity, I am, most respectfully and truly, yours,
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. 605-606
Transcribed by Colin Woodward, 2016 September 12