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 It contains published and unpublished items, some well known to historians, others that are rare or have never before been put online.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




Richmond, Va., April 23, 1862

General Joseph E. Johnston,

Commanding, Yorktown, Va.:


General: I have received tonight your two letters of yesterday’s date. The points in one have been replied to in my letter of this morning. I informed you of the condition of affairs upon the Rappahannock and such troops as I had been able to send them. I have heard nothing since, except the arrival at Urbana of two large gunboats, one of which apparently contained troops.

Should an advance be contemplated from the Rappahannock it would require some time to assemble a sufficient force. In that event the course you suggest seems to me the only one we can pursue. I will endeavor to keep you advised of the progress of events north of this place. I will follow your suggestions when any important dispatch is forwarded to you by telegraph. I directed the Quartermaster-General this morning to have the bridge on the Chickahominy repaired. I have heard of no boats going up the bay from Fort Monroe but two steamers and twenty sail vessels. I presume they were going for provisions, and thought probably their object to be seizure of corn from the counties bordering on the Rappahannock.

My last accounts from General Jackson were dated 21st. He was then at Swift Run Gap. Ewell had reached Gordonsville. I have heard nothing of the further advance of the enemy in the valley nor of the junction of Jackson and Ewell.

Field’s position, as far as I understand it, is on the Ta River, where it is crossed by the Telegraph road, about 13 miles this side of Fredericksburg. His cavalry was advanced to within 4 miles of Fredericksburg.

I neglected to mention that the only troops that I have heard of having left New Berne was General Reno’s brigade, of five regiments, who landed at Elizabeth City, on the Pasquotank, with a view of destroying the lock of the canal to prevent our iron-clad boats from Norfolk reaching Albemarle Sound. They were met at South Mills by the Thirteenth Georgia, Colonel Wright, and McComas’ light battery, and driven back with loss, burning the bridges in their rear, taking to their boats, and departing. We capture considerable ammunition, some arms, &c., but I regret to add that Captain McComas fell while gallantly fighting his battery.

I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

R E Lee,





Source: The War of the Rebellion, Series 1, Volume 11, Part 3, pp. 458-459

Transcribed by Colin Woodward, 2018 November 13

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