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 It contains published and unpublished items, some well known to historians, others that are rare or have never before been put online.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

Richmond, Va., May 22, 1861

Brig. Gen. M. L. Bonham, C. S. A.:

General: In the execution of the orders with which you have been furnished, relative to the command of the Alexandria line of operations, I need not call the attention of one as experienced as yourself to the necessity of preventing the troops from all interference with the rights and property of the citizens of the State, and of enforcing rigid discipline and obedience to orders. But it is proper for me to state to you that the policy of the State at present is strictly defensive. No attack, or provocation for attack will therefore be given, but every attack resisted to the extent of your means. Great reliance is placed on your discretion and judgment in the application of your force, and I must urge upon you the importance of organizing and instructing the troops as rapidly as possible and preparing them for active service. For this purpose it will be necessary to post them where their service may be needed and where they can be concentrated at the points threatened. The Manassas Junction is a very important point on your line, as it commands the communication with Harper’s Ferry, and must be firmly held. Intrenchments at that point would add to its security, and, in connection with its defense, you must watch the approaches from either flank, particularly towards Occoquan. Alexandria in its front will, of course, claim your attention as the first point of attack, and, as soon as your force is sufficient, in your opinion, to resist successfully its occupation, you will so dispose it as to effect this object, if possible, without appearing to threaten Washington City. The navigation of the Potomac being closed to us, and the U. S. armed vessels being able to take a position in front of the town, you will perceive the hazard of its destruction, unless your measures are such as to prevent it. This subject, being one of great delicacy, is left to your judgment. The railroad communications must be secured, however, and their use by the enemy prevented. In the absence of tents or vacant houses, you will have to erect temporary plank sheds for the protection of your men.

Very respectfully, &c.,

R E Lee,


Major-General, Commanding




Source: The War of the Rebellion, Series 1, Volume 2, pp. 865-866

Transcribed by Colin Woodward, 2019 March 20

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