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 It contains published and unpublished items, some well known to historians, others that are rare or have never before been put online.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


 

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Headquarters Army of Northern Virginia

February 2, 1863

 

Hon. James A. Seddon,

Secretary of War:

Sir: I have had the honor to receive a letter from the Hon. A. R. Boteler, transmitting a petition of certain members of the General Assembly of Virginia, with reference to the defense of the Valley, referred to me on the 27th ultimo. The condition of affairs in that region had previously attracted my serious consideration. I had hoped that the force under Brig. Gen. W. E. Jones would have been sufficient to confine the enemy to the lower part of the Valley, if not to the line of the Potomac, and I authorized him, when necessary, to unite with him the troops in Augusta County, under Colonels [H. B.] Davidson and [J. D.] Imboden.

General Jones was selected for the position which he now holds by Lieutenant-General [T. J.] Jackson, in whose judgment I have great confidence. He has heretofore proved himself active, energetic, and bold in the face of the enemy. I am unable at this distance to judge whether he has accomplished all that could have been done to drive the enemy from the Valley, but I can readily see many difficulties which lay in his way. He reports that there is no long forage in the lower part of the Valley, and I know if at this season the horses are kept at hard work on insufficient food they will be incapacitated for duty in the spring, when their services will be more required. Without forage for the horses, provisions for the infantry cannot be transported, nor can efficient means be adopted to expel the enemy at this inclement period. The presence of General Burnside’s large army in my immediate front and his threatened movements have prevented my detaching any portion of this army, and, even if less engaged, I should consider it extremely hazardous to throw a body of infantry across the Blue Ridge for operations in the Valley at this season. General Jones has been directed to keep his cavalry as near the enemy as practicable, to curtail his marauding expeditions, to cut up his communications, and to harass him in every possible way. I send you his last report, in order that you may better judge of his operations. It is impossible entirely to prevent every predatory expedition. I will write again to General Jones, and inclose the letter of Mr. Boteler.

I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

R E Lee,

General

 

[Inclosure]

 

Headquarters Valley District,

New Market, Va., January 26, 1863

General R. E. Lee,

Commanding Army of Northern Virginia:

General: In reply to yours of the 21st instant, I feel I can compel General Milroy to quit Winchester, or bring a cavalry force superior to mine to his assistance. It can be done by cutting off his communications with Martinsburg, his base of operations.

Colonel [A. W.] Harman, with 800 men, was sent down the Page Valley on the 14th instant, and only missed meeting the enemy at Front Royal about twenty-four hours. He was delayed in starting two days by the weather, and it is believed the object of the enemy was only to meet him. He passed below Winchester to the Berryville pike, and it was hoped he would encounter detachments or destroy trains of wagons.

Scarcely anything was done. It was my intention to have sent a like force again, but a heavy fall of wet snow has delayed movement. There is no hay in the Lower Valley, and if our horses are worked hard on such forage as can be found there, I fear they will be exhausted before spring.

When the weather will permit, I promise to be active, and if the forces of the enemy now in the Valley indicate a movement across the Blue Ridge, your orders will be promptly executed.

News reached me to-day, through citizens, that all the Reserve Corps near Fairfax Court-House, excepting a mere guard for property, had moved toward the Lower Rappahannock.

A scout arrived here yesterday directly from Berlin, reporting that trains pass every half hour on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad.

My volunteer aide-de-camp arrived yesterday, reporting all quiet in Fauquier.

The scout brought the Baltimore American of the 21st instant. No news of importance, except a repulse of the gunboats from Port Hudson.

Nearly, 2,000 men have gone from Winchester to Romney, according to information gained by my scouts from citizens. If this be true, and taken with the quiet along the east of the Blue Ridge, indications are against a move on the part of Milroy to your immediate front. If it still be your desire that Milroy should leave Winchester at even considerable sacrifice, it shall be so; but the town won cannot be held with cavalry, on account of forage. An attacking force capable of reaching the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad would inflict serious loss on the enemy.

From the best information I can get, there are 15,000 men from Cumberland to Harper’s Ferry, including those at Romney and Winchester.

A lieutenant who deserted from the One hundred and tenth Ohio represents much dissatisfaction among the troops on account of the emancipation proclamation. He represents many would follow his example if insured kind treatment by our Government. I feel authorized to offer such to all who come voluntarily into our lines, and will do so if opportunity presents itself, unless ordered otherwise.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

W. E. Jones,

Brigadier-General, Commanding

 

 

 

Source: The War of the Rebellion, Series 1, Volume 25, Part 2, pp. 604-606

Transcribed by Colin Woodward, 2018 October 29

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