• 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 It contains published and unpublished items, some well known to historians, others that are rare or have never before been put online.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 curator, Colin Woodward, about how you can contribute to this historic project.



Headquarters, Richmond, Va., May 29, 1862


Major-General Pemberton,

Comdg. Dept. of South Carolina and Georgia, Charleston, S.C.:


General: It is desired that you give particular attention to the condition of the fortifications in Charleston Harbor, not only as regards the armament and supplies, but also as regards the condition and feeling of the garrisons. This is particularly important, as any disaffection might be attended by irreparable mischief.

Since the example of Fort Jackson we cannot be too particular in guarding against mutiny.1 Since your forces have been to some extent reduced and may be still further diminished it becomes necessary for you to make up in vigilance any want of physical force you may have to contend against. The importance of defending both Charleston and Savannah to the last extremity, particularly Charleston, is earnestly brought to your attention. The loss of Charleston would cut us off almost entirely from communication with the rest of the world, and close the only channel through which we can expect to get supplies from abroad, now almost our only dependence. You will therefore make use of every means at your command to put these cities in the most perfect state of defense. Your attention is particularly called to the river and harbor obstructions. These should be rendered as strong as it is possible for them to be made. Spare no labor or expense upon them. It is also of the greatest importance that the discipline of the garrisons of the different works should be brought to the highest state of perfection. Let it be distinctly understood by everybody that Charleston and Savannah are to be defended to the last extremity. If the harbors are taken the cities are to be fought street by street and house by house as long as we have a foot of ground to stand upon. The State authorities of both South Carolina and Georgia will doubtless lend you every means at their command to aid you in your operations.

I am, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

R. E. Lee,





1. Lee is referring a mutiny that occurred during the campaign for New Orleans in April of 1862.




Source: The War of the Rebellion, Series I, Vol. 14, pp. 523-524.

Transcribed by Colin Woodward, 2021 July 15         

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