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 It contains published and unpublished items, some well known to historians, others that are rare or have never before been put online.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

January 21, 1863


His Excellency President Jefferson Davis:

Mr. President: A scout just returned from Washington City reports that the impression is prevalent there that General Burnside’s army is preparing to advance. The river is filled with transports with supplies; lumber and forage ascending the river, provisions, &c., descending—all going to Aquia and Potomac Creeks. The Fourth and Fifth Regiments U. S. Cavalry have, within a few days, marched from Washington, via Piscataway to Liverpool Point, and thence crossed to Aquia. A large supply of mules, both for draught and packing, sutlers’ wagons, &c., now take that route, either on account of better roads or safety from our cavalry.

A scout just returned from the vicinity of Potomac Creek reports large wharves being erected at Marlborough Point and Belle Plain, and that he heard from one of our citizens that a railroad was being constructed from Brooke’s Station (where the Fredericksburg Railroad crosses Potomac Creek) in the direction of Port Royal, with the view, it is said, to transport their siege guns.

A scout from Aquia Creek, on the right flank of the enemy, reports, on information derived from deserters and from our citizens, that their army is under marching orders. The men of Sigel’s corps state that they are to move in the direction of Warrenton. Men of other portions of the army report that they are to go toward Port Royal. There is concentration of infantry and artillery near the junction of the Rappahannock and Rapidan, and yesterday columns of infantry were seen by our pickets moving through Stafford in that direction.

I think it is certain that some movement is contemplated by General Burnside, but whether it is toward Richmond or into winter quarters is not so clear. The indications I have stated would favor either supposition. I have discovered yet no preparations for crossing the Rappahannock. Those reported to have been made at Castle’s Ferry are trivial in their nature, and of but little importance. We have a long line to watch, and, by concealing their movements, a large body of troops might be thrown across before they could be resisted, and might oblige a retrograde movement on our part for concentration, but I hope that if such a movement is made by the enemy that we will be able to deal him a successful blow.

I inclose a note from a correspondent in Washington, who last winter forwarded information to General Johnston. It will show you his opinion of the condition of affairs.

I have the honor to be, with great respect, your obedient servant,

R E Lee,




Source: The War of the Rebellion, Series 1, Volume 21, pp. 1103-1104

Transcribed by Colin Woodward, 2018 March 12

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