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 It contains published and unpublished items, some well known to historians, others that are rare or have never before been put online.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



Headquarters Army of Northern Virginia,

August 14, 1862

General Gustavus W. Smith,

Commanding Division, &c.:


General: I propose joining that portion of the Army of Northern Virginia now under General Longstreet, and expect to leave here tomorrow. In my absence you will be the senior officer with this wing of the army, and I request you to direct its operations. For all purposes connected with the defense of Richmond, James River, its approaches, &c., you will give directions to Generals D. H. Hill and R. H. Anderson, stationed on the south side of James River. General D. H. Hill is in command of the Department of North Carolina, which has been extended from the Cape Fear to the James River, and that army has been united to this. From your general knowledge of the affairs of this army, its objects and position, I deem no instructions necessary beyond the necessity of holding Richmond to the last extremity, should any attack be made upon it. The lines of defense on both sides of the river must be completed as soon as possible, and every attention given to the organization, instruction, and discipline of the troops. Tri-monthly returns of the troops are required by existing orders, and I wish you would cause a consolidated return of the four divisions with you to be forwarded to me. Should you be able to ascertain whether General McClellan is diminishing his force at his present position please let me know, and to what points they are being sent. It may be necessary in that event to reduce our own force correspondingly or to withdraw it entirely. I wish you to keep this contingency constantly in view. Generals D. H. Hill and Hampton have instructions to keep out scouts and to use every means in their power to ascertain General McClellan’s movements. Lieut. Col. E. P. Alexander has undertaken measures to the same end.

I am, with high respect, your obedient servant,

R E Lee,



P.S.—My headquarters will first be at Gordonsville.





Source: The War of the Rebellion, Series 1, Volume 11, Part 3, p. 677

Transcribed by Colin Woodward, 2019 March 14

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