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Camp Orange Co: 29 Mar ‘64

I recd to night my dear Son your letter of the 25th returning Col: Stevens’. The recommendation of you to succeed Genl Elzy is highly Complimentary. No one Can predict with certainty with what success you would operate, but I think you will do as well as those at least who have preceded you. I see no reason why you should not be successful. You have intelligence, energy, strength & the independence of the country at heart. The time is Coming, indeed has Come when every one must put out their strength. They cannot Consult their feelings or individual opinions where to serve, but must take those positions where it is reasonably indent they will be of most value. If you Can be of more service in Commanding the troops around Richmond than in your present position, I think you ought to accept. The prospect is now stronger than a week since that the struggle in Virga for Richmond will be continued. Grant is now with the Army of the Potomac. The impression in that army is that he will operate it. Burnside is Collecting an army at Annapolis. It will probably be thrown on one of our flanks. There are indications that more troops will be sent to the Valley of the Shenandoah. It is said they have Commenced to rebuild the R. R. from Harpers Ferry to Winchester. Every thing at this time is suggestive of another attempt on Richmond.

It may be intended to mislead us, but it must not be neglected. The troops around Richmond may have an important part to play. They should be well prepared & well Commanded. I would rather have you there than any one I could now select. I hope therefore you will decide wisely. But if you do not accept the position, I think from the fact that it was tendered to you, connected with the former proposition for you to command in the valley is evidence that the Pres: thinks your services in the field are desirable. You can therefore signify your desire for it in some other capacity than that suggested. It is necessary that the corps of Engrs attached to this army should be reorganized & strengthened. I also want a proper chief. If you do not take the service now offered, & will accept that of chief Engr of this army I will apply for you.  If you do not take it I must get some one else. I never had any connection with the Pres: as to the rank the chief would hold, & therefore cannot speak on that point. I would prefer to have a general officer on many accounts, as he could take command of troops operating under him. There will be an Engr regt: under Col: Talcott, several comps of Pioneers under them the charge of Engr officers, Engr officers with the staff of the army &c, & I think it would form a proper command for a Br Genl. You would be of great Comfort & assistance to me as chief of staff, but I think probable the position of Chief Engr would be more agreable to you. You refuse Command because you have no experience in the field. I appreciate the motives. But until you come in the field you never will gain experience. I think now is the time for you to take the field in some capacity. I assure you every one that has capacity will be much needed. If Grant operates the Army in Virga he will Concentrate a large force, on one or more lines. Unless we can take the initiative in the West to disturb their plans, we shall have to Concentrate to meet him. I shall require all the aid I can get.

Fitzhugh has reached Stuarts Camp this evg. I have not seen him. There is a terrible rainstorm raging, & we are pretty much diluged. I have written for him to come over in the morg. I am glad to hear that all are well. Give much love to your mother the girls & my cousin Margaret.

God bless guide & protect you my dear son         

Your father

R E Lee




Source: Scan of original letter, The Papers of Robert E. Lee, 1830-1870, University of Virginia Special Collections, Charlottesville

Transcribed by Colin Woodward, 2017 December 1