Headquarters Army of Northern Virginia,

November 27, 1862

His Excellency Jefferson Davis, Richmond:


Mr. President: The reports of the scouts received today state that the whole force of the enemy is concentrated between Fredericksburg and Aquia Creek. Their camps extended along the Telegraph road from Chopawamsie Creek to south of Stafford Court-House. A small force is stationed at Dumfries, Occoquan, and Brentsville. The wharf at Aquia Creek is finished, and a locomotive and cars were seen on the track. They are opening a broad road from Evansport to Brooke’s water station, on the railroad, and reconstructing the telegraph line to Alexandria. No transports were seen in the river, but four war steamers and seven gunboats were lying off the creek. There were also six steamers, fifteen sail vessels, and some tugs towing barges loaded with stores. Everything seems to indicate a purpose of occupying their present position. No preparation has yet been discovered for an attempt to cross the river, but I have learned of a large pontoon train having reached General Burnside’s headquarters, on the Stafford road. Their object may be to make a winter campaign, under the belief that our troops will not be sufficiently guarded against the cold for operations in the field.

Our army, at present, is in good health, and, I think, capable of making a strong resistance. General Jackson’s corps is halted at Orange Court-House, and but for the uncertainty of the weather, I should advance it in Culpeper, as far as the Rappahannock. The last two storms have produced a great effect upon the roads in this country, and I feel unwilling to expose the men to the labor and suffering they might have to undergo should it become necessary to unite the army. We are procuring abundance of forage in the Rappahannock Valley for our animals, but no flour or meat. General Jackson’s corps is supplying itself with flour from the mills in the neighborhood, and is also able to procure plenty of forage.

From my present position, I am unable to ascertain the purpose of the enemy in North Carolina. I am aware of the frequent demonstrations he is making upon several points, but cannot help thinking that it is with a view of distracting us, for it is plain that his whole fighting force is now posted between the Rappahannock and Potomac.

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

R E Lee



November 28, 1862

P.S.—Since writing the above, three gunboats are reported to have arrived at Port Royal last evening.               



Source: The War of the Rebellion, Series 1, Volume 21, p. 1034

Transcribed by Colin Woodward, 2017 November 27