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Richmond, Va., May 8, 1862


General Joseph E. Johnston,

Commanding, &c.:

Your letter of the 8th has just been received. Those to which you allude as having received yesterday were prepared for my signature and being unexpectedly called away, and not wishing to detain the messenger, I directed Major Taylor to affix my signature and send to you. The one referring to the telegram of General Loring was merely intended to advise you of the progress of the evacuation of Norfolk and what had been done to maintain the posts guarding the communication to that place until the evacuation was completed, and which was supposed to be in accordance with your general instructions on the subject. Nothing was done to interrupt the portion of General Colston’s brigade joining him. I consider your authority to extend over the troops on both sides of James River, and have transmitted as rapidly as I could all the orders sent to me. I do not recollect your having requested information relating to the other departments of your command to be forwarded by any other means than the usual course of the mails, and supposed the commanders were in direct correspondence with you.

I advised you on the 23d of April of certain troops having been ordered to report to General Field, viz, two regiments from this city raised for local defense, two light batteries, a brigade from South Carolina, and a brigade from North Carolina, making in all about 8,000 men in addition to those previously there. The brigade of General J. R. Anderson having been sent from North Carolina by General Holmes, places General Anderson in command of the troops, he being the senior officer present. He has taken position about Massaponax, south of Fredericksburg, extending his pickets toward Port Royal.

I understand that the enemy has built a bridge of boats across the Rappahannock opposite Fredericksburg, but has not yet occupied the town, his troops occupying the hills in Stafford, his left being opposite Port Royal; his strength estimated at from 15,00 to 20,000.

General Ewell at last reports was at Swift Run Gap, a portion of his division being at Stanardsville. General Jackson was at Staunton, with a view of uniting with General Edward Johnson and attacking General Milroy, who was not far from Buffalo Gap. General Banks was reported as having evacuated Harrisonburg and passed down the valley, his main body being beyond New Market. It has occurred to me that his object may be to form a junction with General McDowell on the Rappahannock. I have telegraphed my apprehension to both Generals Jackson and Ewell to place them on their guard.

Two brigades, one from North Carolina and one from Norfolk, have been directed, under the orders of the President, to proceed to Gordonsville, to re-enforce that line, which at one time was threatened by a column from Warrenton, the advance of which entered Culpeper Court-House. The obstructions of James River are progressing as rapidly as possible and batteries in process of erection for their defense. I know of no one more competent to direct the construction of these works than Major Stevens if not wanted with your army. In reference to the obstruction of the Pamunkey, before it was commenced the subject was referred to you, and directions were given for the preparation of material, procuring of pile-driver, &c. The river had been previously examined for that purpose, and the best position stated to be about 8 miles below the railroad bridge. Captain Carrington, who understood the work, was directed to report to you for instructions and any aid he might require. But from the difficulty of communicating with you and the necessity of the case, and being only able to use the boats in the river, the work, I fear, has been imperfectly done. All the transports, however, were carried above the obstructions, and their cargoes I understand are at present secure.

The quartermaster and commissary departments will be informed as to the point to which to send you provisions.

The President has heard with much pleasure of the handsome manner in which the enemy was dislodged on the afternoon of the 6th by a portion of your command, and your commendatory remarks on the officers engaged have been reported to him.

Most respectfully, your obedient servant,

R E Lee,




Source: The War of the Rebellion, Series 1, Volume 11, Part 3, pp. 500-501

Transcribed by Colin Woodward, 2019 March