Headquarters Army of Northern Virginia,

November 15, 1862

Col. W. B. Ball, Commanding Fredericksburg:


Colonel: I informed you yesterday, by telegraph, that I desired the railroad between Fredericksburg and Aquia Creek to be entirely broken up. The bridges and culverts must be thoroughly destroyed, the crossties removed and piled, with the rails placed across them, and, when the timber is sufficiently dry, fired; the weight of the bars will thus cause them to bend, and prevent their being relaid. If you can make arrangements to bring the iron back and send it to Richmond, it will be better and I desire you to do so, but, if you cannot, treat in the manner described above. See the superintendent of the road, and endeavor to save the iron. Your telegraph of last evening, reporting the force of cavalry and artillery to have crossed at Ellis’ Ford, and to be advancing on Fredericksburg, has been received. There must be some mistake made by your informant, or the pickets at Ellis’ Ford are negligent of their duty. No such report has been made to me, and for a body of the enemy to cross at Ellis’ Ford and proceed on the route toward Fredericksburg, they must previously have entered in the forks of the Rappahannock and Rapidan, and escaped all our pickets. If you find that your courier has given you wrong information, he must be corrected and punished.

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

R E Lee,



Source: The War of the Rebellion, Series 1, Volume 21, p. 1014

Transcribed by Colin Woodward, 2017 December 11