• The Lees of Virginia
  • The Lees of Virginia
  • The Lees of Virginia
  • The Lees of Virginia

The Lee Family Digital Archive is the largest online source for primary source materials concerning the Lee family of Virginia. It contains published and unpublished items, some well known to historians, others that are rare or have never before been put online. We are always looking for new letters, diaries, and books to add to our website. Do you have a rare item that you would like to donate or share with us? If so, please contact our curator, Colin Woodward, about how you can contribute to this historic project.



Headquarters Army of Northern Virginia,

June 13, 1863


Hon. James A. Seddon,

Secretary of War, Richmond, Va.:


I had the honor to receive yesterday your letters of the 9th and 10th instant.

You can realize the difficulty of operating in any offensive movement with this army if it has to be divided to cover Richmond. It seems to me useless to attempt it with the force against it. You will have seen its effective strength by the last returns. I grieve over the desolation of the country and the distress to innocent women and children, occasioned by spiteful excursions of the enemy, unworthy of a civilized nation. It can only be prevented by local organization and bold measures. As regards cavalry, I have not half as much as I require to keep back the enemy’s mounted force in my front. If I weaken it, I fear a heavier calamity may befall us than that we wish to avoid. I have not yet heard of Col. R. [H.] Anderson’s regiment of cavalry leaving Georgia, or Colonel [J. H.] Clanton’s from Alabama, which I understood had been ordered by the President some time since. General D. H. Hill offered to send me a North Carolina regiment. It had better be ordered to Richmond. I believe the expedition reported to General Elzey as marching up the Peninsula is one of those raids. All accounts agree that the Federal forces at Suffolk, Yorktown, Gloucester, &c., have been reduced, and General Hooker re-enforced. Some of General Dix’s men were captured on the 11th at Fredericksburg. I think the enemy had been mystified as to our movements until the publication of my dispatch to the Department of the cavalry fight on the 9th, and the comments and assertions of some of our Richmond papers. The day after the fight everything subsided to their former lines. Yesterday movements were discovered up the Rappahannock, and pickets report they continued all night. I send down Colonel Long to give an exact account of the reported movements of the enemy up the Peninsula. He will inform you of the condition of affairs here.


I am, very respectfully, 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. 27, Part 3, p. 886.


Transcribed by Colin Woodward, 2016 June 13

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