• 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 It contains published and unpublished items, some well known to historians, others that are rare or have never before been put online.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., May 2, 1862

General Joseph E. Johnston,

Commanding Army of Northern Virginia:


General: Your letter of the 1st instant has been received, and your directions to General Huger, Captain Lee, and Flag-Officer Tatnall forwarded to Norfolk. The Secretary of War went to Norfolk this morning to make arrangements preparatory to the evacuation of that department and for securing the public property at the forts and navy-yard, and to endeavor to send the unfinished gunboats to this city. All the time that can be gained will facilitate these operations. It is not known under what necessity you are acting or how far you can delay the movements of the enemy, who it is presumed will move up York River as soon as opened to him to annoy your flank. His advance on land can be retarded, and he might be delayed in effecting a landing on York River until your stores are withdrawn. The safety of all your ammunition is of the highest importance, and I feel every assurance that everything that can be accomplished by forethought, energy, and skill on your part will be done. If it is possible for the Virginia, which upon the fall of Norfolk must be destroyed, to run into Yorktown at the last moment and destroy the enemy’s gunboats and transports, it would greatly cripple his present and future movements, relieve your army from pursuit, and prevent its meeting the same army in Northern Virginia.

I have the honor to be, your obedient servant,

R E Lee,




Source: The War of the Rebellion, Series 1, Volume 11, Part 3, p. 678

Transcribed by Colin Woodward, 2019 March 14

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