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 It contains published and unpublished items, some well known to historians, others that are rare or have never before been put online.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




Richmond, Va., March 26, 1862


Maj. Gen. J. B. Magruder,

Commanding, Yorktown, Va.:

General: Your several telegrams of yesterday and previous dates were received. The information forwarded by you, derived from the signal office at Norfolk, was transmitted by General Huger. It is unnecessary for you to repeat in detail such dispatches; the substance will be sufficient, or your opinion of the facts related.

It seems certain that a large force of the enemy is accumulating at Old Point Comfort, no doubt with a purpose of attacking either Norfolk or Richmond, but which of these points he may select, or what line of approach he may choose, I have as yet heard nothing to enable me to decide. Until some conclusion can be drawn as to his point of attack it would be manifestly improper to accumulate at either the army to oppose him. Measures, however, have been taken to throw into the Peninsula the available troops from Norfolk in case the enemy move against your line, and it will be necessary for you to be prepared to reinforce Norfolk in the event of the attack being upon that city. All the boats on James River are ordered to be prepared to ferry across the troops, and troops are being concentrated in this city to be moved to either point that may be threatened.

It will no doubt be the policy of the enemy to disguise his intention by threatening one point while preparing to attack the other, and the utmost care and judgment should be exercised to ascertain his real design. You will use every means in your power to obtain information on this point, and communicate every material fact tending in your opinion to throw light upon the subject, with your own inferences from such facts.

Assuming that the enemy will advance up the Peninsula to Richmond, and supposing that their boats may be able to force a passage by the batteries on York and James Rivers, they will be in a position, should they land on the Pamunkey on one side and about the Chickahominy on the other, to intercept your retreat, and will have turned the line of your land defenses. You must take measures to guard against such a catastrophe, and be prepared in such event to throw your whole force behind the Chickahominy, where a stand must be made. For this purpose you will cause examinations to be made of suitable positions on the lines of the Pamunckey and James Rivers above the water batteries, to be occupied by you in such force as to delay the landing and advance of the enemy while you are withdrawing the body of your army behind the Chickahominy. In selecting these positions you will ascertain the best wharves and landings on each river above your river batteries, and take measures in the event of the enemy’s passing those batteries to destroy those wharves and impede the landing of the enemy in every way, and to display such a force opposite the wharves and landings which the enemy may approach as to delay his advance while the body of your army is being withdrawn behind the proposed new line. Of course you will understand that these positions to cover the withdrawal of your army are only to be occupied by you in the event of the danger of the enemy’s passing the river batteries becoming so imminent as in your judgment to render it necessary.

In the mean time you will only select suitable places to be occupied by you in the happening of the contingency above mentioned, and make such preparations as may be necessary to accomplish the purposes above indicated. All the information received here leads me to believe that the troops of the enemy now being concentrated at Old Point are drawn from the army that has heretofore been threatening the lines lately occupied by the Army of the Potomac under General Johnston.

I am, general, with great respect, your obedient servant,

R E Lee

General, Commanding




Source: The War of the Rebellion, Series 1, Volume 11, Part 3, pp. 398-399

Transcribed by Colin Woodward, 2018 February 15    


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