division, now opposite Fredericksburg, has been drawn from the neighborhood of Warrenton. A second division, with which General McDowell is said to be, is reported as being directed upon Fredericksburg from the same point. It is certain that the enemy have not yet occupied Fredericksburg, but that several steamers containing troops and towing canal-boats, laden probably with provisions, and flat-boats for the purpose perhaps of forming a bridge across the river, have ascended the Rappahannock, and I think from all indications they are collecting a strong force at that point. For this purpose they must weaken other points, and now is the time to concentrate on any that may be exposed within our reach. If Banks is too strong in numbers and position to attempt, cannot a blow be struck at the enemy in the direction of Warrenton by a combination of your own and Ewell's command? With this view General Edward Johnson might be brought nearer to you. The dispersion of the enemy in that quarter would relive Fredericksburg. But if neither of these movements be advisable, then a combination of Ewell and Field might be advisable, and a direct blow be given to the enemy at Fredericksburg. That you may judge of the practicability of this step I will mention that in addition to Field's brigade, about 5,000 troops, under General J. R. Anderson, including two field batteries, have joined him, and 3,000 on their way to him are yet to pass through this city The blow, wherever struck, must, to be successful, be sudden and heavy. The troops used must be efficient and light. I cannot pretend at this distance to direct operations depending on circumstances unknown to me and requiring the exercise of discretion and judgment as to time and execution, but submit these suggestions for your consideration.
I am, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
R. E. LEE,
RICHMOND, VA., April 25, 1862.
General R. S. EWELL,
Commanding at Somerset:
GENERAL: I had the honor to receive your letter of the 23rd instant.* Your intelligence of the movements of the enemy from the direction of Warrenton toward Fredericksburg corresponds with what I have received from other sources. I think the enemy is establishing a strong force at that point, with a view perhaps of making a diversion or a real attack against Richmond. It has occurred to me as probable that for this purpose he has stripped his line between the Rappahannock Bridge and Manassas; if not, it must be so weakened that I hope a blow from the combined forces of yourself and General Jackson can destroy him. Should he have evacuated that region, and you are not required to oppose General Banks' column, by uniting such part of your force as can be spared with General Field, a successful blow might be struck at the enemy in front of Fredericksburg. At last accounts he had not crossed the Rappahannock nor repaired the bridges.
Several steamers, containing men and towing barges and flat-boats, probably with the view of bridging the river, were ascending the Rappahannock.
In addition to Field's brigade, about 5,000 troops, including two