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Headquarters Army of Northern Virginia,

Camp Fredericksburg, November 23, 1862


Lieutenant-General Jackson, Commanding, &c.:

General: Should my former dispatches have been received, you will have been informed of the position of the enemy and of that portion of the army with me. I will, however, report that General Burnside’s whole army is apparently opposite Fredericksburg, stretching from the Rappahannock to the Potomac. Since my last dispatch, General Stuart has reported that Warrenton Junction and Manassas have been abandoned, and the stores collected there burned. The bridges on the Orange and Alexandria Railroad, from the Rappahannock to Bull Run, inclusive, have been destroyed, and the indications are that hostile operations in that country have ceased for the winter. General Stuart also reports that two divisions of Sigel’s corps (those of Stahel and Carl Schurz) have passed through Centreville, on the way to Washington; and that but three brigades, under Generals Slocum and Geary, were left at Harper’s Ferry, and one brigade in Maryland.   

Under this view of things, if correct, I do not see, at this distance, what ilitary effect can be produced by the continuance of your corps in the valley. If it were east of the Blue Ridge, either in Loudoun, Fauquier, or Culpeper, its influence would be felt by the enemy, whose rear would be threatened, though they might feel safe with regard to their communications. Another advantage would be, provided you were at Culpeper, that you would be in railroad communication with several points, so that the transfer of your troops would be rendered certain, without regard to the state of the weather or the condition of the roads. If, therefore, you see no way of making an impression on the enemy from where you are, and concur with me in the views I have expressed, I wish you would move east of the Blue Ridge, and take such a position as you may find best. There is forage and subsistence in Rappahannock, Culpeper, Madison, and Greene, and, I believe, in Upper Fauquier and Loudoun, all of which ought to be collected and secured.

I am as yet unable to discover what may be the plan of the enemy. He is certainly making no forward movement, though he may be preparing to do so. I am apprehensive that, while keeping a force in our front, he may be transferring his troops to some other quarter, and the march of a portion of Sigel’s corps to Alexandria would favor this view of the subject. Should this be the case, the position of your corps at Culpeper would be advantageous. General Longstreet’s corps is now here, with two brigades of cavalry and the reserve artillery. One brigade of cavalry (General Hampton’s) occupies the forks of the Rappahannock, headquarters at Stevensburg.

I am, with great respect, your obedient servant,

R E Lee





Source: The War of the Rebellion, Series 1, Volume 21, pp. 1027-1028

Transcribed by Colin Woodward, 2017 December 18