• 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 It contains published and unpublished items, some well known to historians, others that are rare or have never before been put online.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 editor, Colin Woodward, at  (804) 493-1940, about how you can contribute to this historic project.


 

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Confidential    Hdqrs. Army of Northern Virginia

December 6, 1862

 

His Excellency Jefferson Davis, Richmond:

Mr. President: The enemy still maintains his position north of the Rappahannock. I can discover no indications of his advancing, or of transferring his troops to other positions. Scouts on both of his flanks north of the Rappahannock report no movement, nor have those stationed on the Potomac discovered the collection of transports or the passage of troops down that river.

General Burnside’s whole army appears to be encamped between the Rappahannock and Potomac. His apparent inaction suggests the probability that he is waiting for expected operations elsewhere, and I fear troops may be collecting south of James River. Yet I get no reliable information organized or tried troops being sent to that quarter, nor am I aware of any of their general officers in whom confidence is placed being there in command. There is an evident concentration of troops hitherto disposed in other parts of Virginia, but whether for the purpose of augmenting General Burnside’s army or any other I cannot tell.

Colonel Imboden reports that the Federal forces in Northwestern Virginia have retired toward New Creek, leaving a guard of some 200 at Beverly. There are none at Moorefield, or in the valley of the South Branch of the Potomac. There is but one company at Springfield, one at Paw Paw, one at the mouth of Little Cacapon, and three at Oldtown, in Maryland, just opposite.

General Jones reports, on the 4th instant, that Generals Cox and Milroy were marching from New Creek toward Martinsburg, Colonel Imboden having previously reported the rumor of Cox’s withdrawal from the Kanawha Valley. General Geary, I fear, is in possession of Winchester, as on the evening of the 3d he was reported, with his division, within 4 miles of that place. Cox’s, Milroy’s, and Geary’s forces may be intended to occupy the valley, and reconstruct the railroads in that section, but I have thought it more probable that the greater portion were intended for operations elsewhere. I have heard that, on the 30th ultimo, ten regiments from Virginia had reached the Baltimore depot, in Washington, their destination unknown. Should General Cox have withdrawn from the Kanawha Valley, I should think the State troops, under General Floyd, could protect that country, and would recommend that the Confederate troops be brought at once to Staunton, to operate in the Shenandoah Valley, if necessary, or south of James River. I think the strength of the enemy south of James River is greatly exaggerated, but have no means of ascertaining the fact.

From the reports forwarded to me by General G. W. Smith, the officers serving there seem to be impressed with its magnitude. If I felt sure of our ability to resist the advance of the enemy south of that river, it would relieve me of great embarrassment, and I should feel better able to oppose the operations which may be contemplated by General Burnside. I presume that the operations in the Departments of the West and South will require all the troops in each, but, should there be a lull of the war in these departments, it might be advantageous to leave a sufficient covering force to conceal the movement, and draw an active force, when the exigency arrives, to the vicinity of Richmond. Provisions and forage in the mean time could be collected in Richmond. When the crisis shall have passed, these troops could be returned to their departments with re-enforcments.

I need not state to you the advantages of a combination of our troops for a battle, if it can be accomplished, and, unless it can be done, we must make up our minds to fight with great odds against us.

I hope Your Excellency will cause me to be advised when, in your judgment, it may become necessary for this army to move nearer Richmond. It was never in better health or in better condition for battle than now. Some shoes, blankets, arms, and accoutrements are still wanting, but we are occasionally receiving small supplies, and I hope all will be provided in time.

There was quite a fall of snow yesterday, which will produce some temporary discomfort.

I have the honor to be, with great respect, your obedient servant.

R E Lee

General          

 

 

Source: The War of the Rebellion, Series 1, Volume 21, pp. 1049-1050

Transcribed by Colin Woodward, 2018 January 22

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