• The Lees of Virginia
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  • 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 It contains published and unpublished items, some well known to historians, others that are rare or have never before been put online.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 16, 1862.

Maj. Gen. T. H. Holmes, Commanding &c., Fredericksburg, Va.:

            General: I have had the honor to receive your letter of the 15th and 16th instant, by the hands of Lieutenant Hinsdale. The enemy has naturally occupied the ground from which we have withdrawn, and seems to have taken a line approaching parallelism to the position of our army. What route of approach to Richmond he will adopt does not now seem certain. His land transportation would be shortened by coming up the Rappahannock, though the route from the Potomac through Fredericksburg offers other advantages.

            I do not think his advance from Dumfries &c., can be immediate, from what I learn of the condition of the roads, but that he will advance upon our line as soon as he can, I have no doubt. To retard his movements, cut him up in detail if possible, attack him at disadvantage, and, if practicable, drive him back, will of course be your effort and study. It is not the plan of the Government to abandon any country that can be held, and it is only the necessity of the case, I presume, that has caused the withdrawal of troops to the Rappahannock. I trust there will be no necessity of retrograding farther. The position of the main body of the Army of the Potomac seems to have been taken in reference to the reported advance of the enemy up the Shenandoah Valley. A report from General Johnston of his plans and intentions has not yet been received. His movements are doubtless regulated by those of the enemy, and he alone can say whether it is practicable to re-enforce you, to enable you to make the attack you propose or not. As advised by my dispatch of to-day, he has been informed of the contents of your letter, and as he must also have received your communication to him, he will doubtless give such directions as the case admits of.

            In the uncertainty of the position of our own troops, that of the enemy, the condition of the roads, &c., the measures you propose could not safely be directed from here. A blow at the enemy at the crossing of the Chopawamsic might, it seems to me, come within the scope of your forces, provided it meets with the concurrence of General Johnston, whose directions in the matter must, of course, be had.

            I very much regret to learn from your letter of the 14th that it is the opinion of yourself and officers that Fredericksburg is in itself untenable. Can it be maintained by occupying a position on the left bank of the river or in advance of the hills on that side? I request that you will cause an examination of the country to be made, should you not be sufficiently acquainted with it, both in your front and rear, with a view to take the best position the case admits of. I would also suggest that arrangements be made to break up the railroad to Aquia Creek and remove the iron as soon as in your judgment it can be done without detriment to the service. I think it certain the enemy will press his advance on Richmond in every direction.

            Our troops are coming in spiritedly, and if we can gain time, I trust we shall be able to drive him back.

                        I am, &c.,

RE Lee

General, Commanding.





Source: The War of the Rebellion, Series 1, Volume 5, p. 1103

Transcribed by Daniel Shevalier, 2018 June 14

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