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 It contains published and unpublished items, some well known to historians, others that are rare or have never before been put online.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

July 11, 1864

Lieut. Gen. R. S. Ewell,

Commanding, &c.:

General: In your note of July 9 you mention that very good places have been found on the north side of the river for putting torpedoes in the James. I have been anxious for some time to accomplish this, and sent Capt. E. P. Bryan, of General Beauregard’s staff, who had been very successful in Florida, to sow as many as practicable. He reported to General Rains, by order of the Secretary of War, but found that the general had no boats nor oars, and his department was not well supplied with other conveniences. He found that the Navy Department had boats, oars, and men, but he could obtain but few of these men and no boats suitable for the purpose. There seemed to be some conflict of authority between the subterra and the submarine departments, which caused such delay and difficulties that General Beauregard instructed Captain Bryan to stop his proceedings for the present. He accordingly left his sensitive torpedoes at Chaffin’s Bluff and returned to this point. By obtaining from the Navy Department the requisite material and operating at once with expedition and secrecy much might be accomplished. A large number of torpedoes placed now in the river might create great consternation among the transports plying daily and nightly to and from City Point. I hope you will be able to overcome the various difficulties in the way and proceed at once with the work. If you need Captain Bryan he can be sent to you. It matters little which department wins the credit, provided the work is well done.

I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

R E Lee,




Source: The War of the Rebellion, Series 1, Volume 40, Part 3, p. 764

Transcribed by Colin Woodward, 2018 April 11     


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