Richmond, Va., April 23, 1862


General Joseph E. Johnston,

Commanding Army of Northern Virginia:

General: A dispatch from General Field today reports all quiet in his front. The enemy has not crossed the Rappahannock, and the gunboats that were arrested in their ascent by the obstructions at Spottswood Bar have left the river. I presume his numbers are much exaggerated; for if General Augur had the force attributed to him, or if General McDowell had reached Aquia, I think they would have occupied Fredericksburg.

I think it probable that, finding our weakness in that quarter, the enemy will now endeavor to seize upon Fredericksburg, and make use of the Rappahannock as a means of approach. In addition to the force under General Field left by you I have ordered to him two regiments and a light battery from this city, probably over 1,000 men; Starke’s Virginia and Orr’s South Carolina regiments, over 2,000 men; Gregg’s South Carolina brigade, and J. R. Anderson’s brigade from North Carolina. I hope this may enable him to occupy his former position, or at least to preserve a strong front against any advance of the enemy.

In my dispatch to you on this subject I had not intended to propose a division of your army, but thought it possible some regiments might, in your opinion, be better applied toward the Rappahannock, as among the reports furnished us was one that the enemy was sending back troops to the Potomac. Should the force now sent to the Rappahannock not be sufficient to arrest a forward movement from that river will inform you, and then you must consider how far it will involve the necessity of a retrograde movement on your part; but in the mean time, referring to your letter of the 20th, should there be reason, in your opinion, for a withdrawal from the Peninsula, I beg you will state them, with your recommendation, that I may submit them to the President. You can best judge of the difficulties before you and know the interests involved in the question.

I have the honor to be, your obedient servant,

R E Lee,




Source: The War of the Rebellion, Series 1, Volume 11, Part 3, p. 458

Transcribed by Colin Woodward, 2018 July 26