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Richmond, Va., April 8, 1862

Hon. S. R. Mallory,

Secretary of the Navy, Richmond, Va.:

Sir: I have the honor to inform you that, from recent developments of the intentions of the enemy in the Peninsula, it is my opinion that they are endeavoring to change their base of operations from James to York River. This change has no doubt been occasioned by their fear of the effect of the Virginia upon their shipping in the James. General Magruder informs me that their gunboats and transports have appeared off Shipping Point, on the Poquosin, near the mouth of the York, where they intend apparently to establish a landing for stores, preparatory to moving against our lines at Yorktown.

They could easily ascend York and Pamunkey Rivers with their gunboats and transports as high as the railroad bridge over the latter if they succeed in passing the defenses at Yorktown.

I respectfully suggest for your consideration the practicability of the Virginia’s passing Fort Monroe in the night to York River. She could by destroying the enemy’s gunboats and transports thwart this design. After effecting this object she could again return to Hampton Roads under cover of night. I would, however, recommend that the Virginia, previously to an attempt against the enemy in York River, should strike a blow at their transports and shipping in Hampton Roads and the bay outside of Forts Monroe and Calhoun, so as to prevent the possibility of an attack on Norfolk. In this manner she could so cripple their means of supplying their army as to prevent its moving against Richmond, while she would deter any movement against Norfolk. Coal could be sent by railroad and York River to Yorktown for her use.

I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

R E Lee,





Source: The War of the Rebellion, Series 1, Volume 11, part 3, pp. 429-430

Transcribed by Colin Woodward, 2018 July 20