Headquarters, Army of Northern Virginia
November 14, 1862
Your letter of the 10th instant, by courier, and telegraphic dispatch of today have been received. The withdrawal of the enemy from the Blue Ridge, and concentration at Warrenton and Waterloo, show I think, that he has abandoned his former base, and assumed that of the Alexandria and Warrenton Railroad.
Your presence then in the Valley seems to be too distant from his line of operations to affect his movements should you remain quiescent. If you were able by a movement through Snicker’s Gap to threaten his communication north of Manassas Junction, it would have the effect of recalling him. This, in your condition would be a hazardous movement, as he could bring a force against you too strong for you to resist, and might intercept your return into the Valley. I do not see then what good your continuance in the Valley will effect beyond the support of your troops.
It is true it may prevent the occupation of Winchester by a portion of the enemy’s forces, but in a military point of view, that would accomplish but little beyond the annoyance of the inhabitants, which is much to be lamented. Your detention there until the occurrence of bad weather and deep roads, might so break down your command as to render it inefficient for further operations, should they become requisite elsewhere. You remaining in the Valley was based upon the supposition that by operating upon the flank and rear of the enemy, you might prevent his progress southward, and so long as you found that this could be effected, I considered it advantageous. But when this cannot be accomplished, the sooner you make a junction with Longstreet’s corps the better. The question now is, whether you can, in the present condition of things, affect the movements of the enemy. He is in a position to move upon Culpeper, using the Orange and Alexandria Railroad as a line of communication, or to march upon Fredericksburg, and establish his base on the Potomac. As you are the best judge of your ability to operate advantageously against him, I leave you to determine the question whether you will continue in your present position or march at once to join Longstreet. I have heard of no movement of the enemy as yet below Kelly’s Ford, except a visit of a small party of his cavalry to Fredericksburg on the 8th, when they charged through the town, but were immediately driven back across the river by our cavalry. Genl Stuart reports this evening that two brigades of the enemy’s infantry are at Jeffersonton. Our cavalry still hold the line of Aestham River to Sperryville. The position of Longstreet’s corps remains unchanged since you were last informed.
I am with great respect, your obt servt
R E Lee
Source: The Wartime Papers of R. E. Lee, edited by Clifford Dowdey and Louis Manarin, pp. 335-336.
Transcribed by Colin Woodward, 2016 November 14