Hdqrs. Department of Northern Virginia,

Philips’ House, Va., July 6, 1862


His Excellency President Davis,

Richmond, Va.:

Mr. President:

From the conflicting and exaggerated reports of the movements of the enemy I conclude that he has been re-enforced, and there are besides indications that it may be his purpose to make a lodgment on the James River as a base for further operations. Seven large steamers were reported to have come up Wednesday, said to be of the large-size New York Sound steamers crowded with soldiers; other steamers with troops are also reported to have arrived at Westover; many sail transports with supplies, some of which contained bales of hay on their decks. Steamers going back are also said to contain men, but they appear to be sick, wounded, and demoralized; do not exhibit themselves on the decks, &c. A large New York ferryboat is also reported at the Westover Landing, where wharves have been prepared by means of their pontoon bridges. This boat may be nothing more than any other transport, but it would prove very convenient should he meditate a transfer of his troops to the other side of the river. The great obstacle to operations here is the presence of the enemy’s gunboats, which protect our approaches to him, and should we even force him from his positions on his land front, would prevent us from reaping any of the fruits of victory and expose our men to great destruction. These considerations induce the opinion that it may be better to leave a small, light force with cavalry here and retire the army near Richmond, where it can be better refreshed and strengthened, and be prepared for a renewal of the contest, which must take place at some quarter soon. I beg that you will take every practicable means to re-enforce our ranks, which are much reduced, and which will require to be strengthened to their full extent to be able to compete with the invigorated force of the enemy. I inclose a report from Captain Wingfield, stationed on the opposite side of the river, which corroborates the reports that I have received from this side.

I have the honor to be, your obedient servant,

R E Lee




Source: The War of the Rebellion, Series 1, Volume 11, Part 3, pp. 634-635

Transcribed by Colin Woodward, 2018 October 17