Headquarters Army of Northern Virginia,

Petersburg, July 24, 1864

Lieut. Gen. R. S. Ewell,

Commanding, &c.:

General: Upon hearing that the enemy were reinforcing their troops on the north side of the James River yesterday morning General Kershaw’s division was ordered to Chaffin’s Bluff. I directed him to assume command of the troops under General Conner, reconnoiter the enemy and ascertain his position, intentions, &c. He informs me that about two brigades intrenched themselves on Tilghman’s farm last night and are still working; that it is reported that a second pontoon bridge has been constructed south of Bailey’s Run, and that the enemy is apparently making a permanent lodgment on both banks of Bailey’s Run with a view to future operations. He states that he has disposed of his troops so as to defend the Varina, New Market, and Darbytown roads. My object in sending troops there was to endeavor to dislodge the enemy, drive them across the river, and destroy the bridges, and if practicable I wish this done, and have sent a dispatch to General Kershaw to that effect. We cannot afford to sit down in front of the enemy and allow him to intrench himself wherever he pleases, and I wish you to see if you cannot break him up on the north side of the James River.

I am, with great respect, your obedient servant,

R E Lee,



Source: The War of the Rebellion, Series 1, Volume 40, Part 3, p. 796

Transcribed by Colin Woodward, 2018 July 30