Headquarters Army of Northern Virginia
July 28, 1862
Sir: General D. H. Hill has been directed to proceed with picked troops to old Fort Powhatan and about fifty pieces of artillery to endeavor to cut off General McClellan’s communication by the river. I have ordered General Pendleton with five of his reserve batteries—the two 32-pounders, the long 32-pounder (Long Tom), and the 18-pounder, all on siege carriages—on the same expedition. I know of no heavier blow that could be dealt General McClellan’s army than to cut off his communication. It would oblige him to break up from his position and retire at least to the broad part of the river. But if this cannot be done, the attempt, if partially successful, will anchor him in his present position, from which he would not dare to advance, so that I can re-enforce Jackson without hazard to Richmond, and thus enable him to drive, if not destroy, the miscreant Pope.
I am particularly anxious that our newspapers may not give the enemy notice of our intentions, and have directed General Hill, in order to cover his movement, to say he was moving against Suffolk or Norfolk, so as to satisfy the curiosity of our countrymen. I leave it for you to judge whether an enigmatical paragraph in the Dispatch to that effect or entire silence may be most advisable.
I have the honor to be, &c.,
R E Lee
Source: The War of the Rebellion, Series 1, Vol. 11, Part 2, p. 936.
Transcribed by Colin Woodward, 2017 March 1