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Headquarters Army of Northern Virginia,

[Near Fredericksburg], November 25, 1862


His Excellency President Davis, Richmond, Va.:

Mr. President: I have endeavored in my official communication to the Adjutant and Inspector General of the Army to keep you apprised of the military condition of affairs on this frontier.

For the first two days after my arrival, the enemy’s forces were being massed on the heights of Stafford, opposite Fredericksburg. But on the evening of the 22nd, which was the second day after my arrival, his camps and trains commenced to move to the rear, and on the morning of the 23d his parks of artillery had all disappeared, save four batteries posted on the plateau just opposite the town. Now their force in view is very small. It was generally supposed that this retrograde movement indicated another transfer of operations, but I believe it was made to secure their camps from our fire, and for the convenience of obtaining subsistence. I think, from the tone of the Northern papers, it is intended that General Burnside shall advance from Fredericksburg to Richmond, and that he is obliged to wait until he can reconstruct paper landings on the Potomac and rebuild the railroad to the Rappahannock.

All their movements that I have been able to discover look to a concentration at this point, and it appears to me that should General Burnside change his base of operations, the effect produced in the United States would be almost equivalent to a defeat. I think, therefore, he will persevere in his present course, and the longer we can delay him, and throw him into the winter, the more difficult will be his undertaking. It is for this reason that I have determined to resist him at the outset, and to throw every obstacle in the way of his advance. I propose to commence breaking up the railroad as one of the means of retarding him, so as to oblige him to move with a large wagon train. I fear this measure will produce opposition on the part of the citizens, and may be viewed by this community as an abandonment of their country. I therefore do not wish to undertake it without due consideration, and should you think it preferable to concentrate the troops nearer to Richmond, I should be glad if you would advise me.

I have waited to the last moment to draw Jackson’s corps to me, as I have seen that his presence on their flank has embarrassed their plans and defeated their first purpose of advancing upon Gordonsville and Charlottesville. I think they will now endeavor to get possession of Hanover Junction.

I need not express to you the importance of urging forward all preparations about Richmond and of uniting all our efforts to resist the great attempt now being made to reach our capital, which, if defeated, may prove the last.

I should like to get some long-range guns from Richmond, if any can be obtained on traveling carriages, and will write to Colonel Gorgas on the subject.

I need not say how glad I should be if your convenience would permit you to visit the army, that I might have the benefit of your views and directions.

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

R E Lee,






Source: The War if the Rebellion, Series 1, Volume 21, pp. 1028-1029

Transcribed by Colin Woodward, 2017 December 20