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Headquarters Army of Northern Virginia,

January 19, 1863


His Excellency Jefferson Davis,

Richmond, Va.:


Mr. President:

I go down this morning to examine the preparations which the enemy seem to be making on the banks of the Rappahannock. I understand that a redoubt has been built on the hill overlooking the river, where their causeway has been constructed. Since my arrival, I have learned nothing more of the designs of the enemy than what had been previously received, except the inclosed notes from two of our scouts, on their right and left flank. Everything combined seems to indicate a movement, and I believe that their army, instead of being diminished by detachments to North Carolina, has been re-enforced since the battle of the 13th December. I therefore have suspended the march of the brigades ordered to North Carolina, until I can ascertain something more definitely. If, in your opinion, the necessity there is more urgent than here, I will dispatch them immediately; they are ready for the march. I have directed the chief quartermaster of this army to take 50 wagons belonging to its transportation, and apply them exclusively to convey the wheat that may be purchased by the agents of the Commissary Department, at Richmond, in the counties lying between the Rappahannock and Pamunkey, to the Central Railroad at Hanover Court-House. I think this a more convenient point than any on the Fredericksburg Railroad, and one from which transportation to Richmond can be more readily obtained.

I would suggest that the Quartermaster-General, in Richmond, collect all the wagons that can be spared from the posts at Gordonsville, Charlottesville, Staunton, Lynchburg, Richmond, &c., which may probably amount to 50, and apply them to the transportation of the wheat in Greene, Madison, and Culpeper Counties, &c., to the railroad, for conveyance to Richmond. Our necessities make it imperative that every exertion be made to supply the army with bread. As the Commissary Department purposes to issue sugar to the army in lieu of part of its meat ration, it has occurred to me that if its supply will warrant it, that by offering to exchange sugar for salt meat in the counties where grain is being collected, many persons might be tempted to part with bacon now retained for their own use. A few thousand pounds even, collected in this way, would be of assistance to the army.

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

R E Lee,





Source: The War of the Rebellion, Series 1, Volume 21, pp. 1096-1097

Transcribed by Colin Woodward, 2018 March 5