• 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 It contains published and unpublished items, some well known to historians, others that are rare or have never before been put online.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,

Hagerstown, Md., September 12, 1862


His Excellency President Davis:


Mr. President: Before crossing the Potomac I considered the ad vantages of entering Maryland east or west of the Blue Ridge. In either case it was my intention to march upon this town. By crossing east of the Blue Ridge, both Washington and Baltimore would be threatened, which I believed would insure the withdrawal of the mass of the enemy’s troops troops north of the Potomac. I think this has been accomplished. I had also supposed that as soon as it was known that the army had reached Fredericktown, the enemy’s forces in the Valley of Virginia, which had retired to Harper’s Ferry and Martinsburg, would retreat altogether from the State. In this I was disappointed, and you will perceive from the accompanying order of the 9th instant that Generals Jackson and McLaws have been detached with a view of capturing their forces at each place should they not have retired.

The army has been received in this region with sympathy and kindness. We have found in this city about 1,500 barrels of flour, and I am led to hope that a supply can be gathered from the mills in the country, though I fear we shall have to haul from the Valley of Virginia. The supply of beef has been very small, and we have been able to procure no bacon. A thousand pairs of shoes and some clothing were obtained in Fredericktown, 250 pairs in Williamsport, and about 400 pairs in this city. They will not be sufficient to cover the bare feet of the army.

Our advance pickets are at Middleburg, on the Pennsylvania line. I await here the result of the movements upon Harper’s Ferry and Martinsburg.

I have the honor to inclose to you a copy of a proclamation which I issued to the people of Maryland. I waited on entering the State for the arrival of ex-governor Lowe; but finding that he did not come up, and that the citizens were embarrassed as to the intentions of the army, I determined to delay no longer in making known our purpose.   

I have the honor to be, 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, pp. 604-605


Transcribed by Colin Woodward, 2016 September 12



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