• 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 It contains published and unpublished items, some well known to historians, others that are rare or have never before been put online.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 30, 1862

Maj. Gen. Huger,

Commanding Department of Norfolk, Va.:

General: The movements of the enemy near Elizabeth City do not seem to indicate a real attack, and is probably intended to distract attention from other points, or to watch that entrance into the sound, by which they seem to apprehend the introduction of our gunboats. It will be necessary for your scouts to be vigilant and your troops prepared.

The subject of General Johnston’s letter is of a more serious nature. If he is obliged to retire from the Peninsula and thus liberate the enemy’s gunboats, &c., his attention will naturally be turned to Norfolk. His possession of James River would render the evacuation of Norfolk in time necessary. Its possibility as well as practicability had better therefore be considered now, in order that it be executed at the most opportune moment. I need hardly suggest to you that the troops be put in as movable condition as possible; that all surplus stores, &c., be sent to a proper place of safety, and that without evacuating any place that you consider important, what is not deemed essential for its defense be withdrawn. Your knowledge of what would be required in the event of the necessity contemplated will point out the proper course to be pursued, and I feel every assurance that it will be pursued with discretion, judgment, and energy. It will be necessary for you to see the means of transportations, routes, &c. Being disembarrassed of surplus stores and other articles, the troops can be withdrawn in the presence of the enemy with order and celerity. The safety of all ammunition must require your particular attention. Whatever arrangements you find it necessary to make will of course be preparatory and be done quietly.

I have the honor to be, your obedient servant,

R E Lee,





Source: The War of the Rebellion, Series 1, Volume 11, Part 3, pp. 477-478

Transcribed by Colin Woodward, 2018 November 26

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