the State, Major General Robert E. Lee assumes command of the military and naval forces of Virginia.
R. E. LEE,
FREDERICKSBURG, VA., April 23, 1861.
His Excellency JOHN LETCHER:
I am this moment informed that the enemy has landed from a small steamer at Lee, on the Rappahannock River, fifty miles below us, attacked the inhabitant, and caused general alarm. Can you send us three or four thousand disciplined volunteers at once, two or three batteries of light artillery, with ammunition; also twenty heavy guns, with plenty of ammunition? Please answer immediately.
Brigadier-General Virginia Volunteers.
HEADQUARTERS, Alexandria, Va., April 24, 1861.
Major General R. E. LEE:
SIR: Your dispatch of the 23rd instant,* by telegraph, has been received. I had fully anticipated all your instructions. I recognized from the moment I took position and command on this line of operations the policy of preserving the anomalous military position now existing, but which may at any moment be overthrown in the present disorganized and feeble military position of our State, and especially on this line of operations. Time, therefore, gained on the one side will enable us to organize and strengthen; but, unless every possible nerve is strengthened on our side, and every moment reckoned as a month, our enemy will press us in this race. Your summons, therefore, from the heart of the State should be "To arms! To arms!" from the center to the remotest confines, and, as soon as you can cover from Alexandria to the heart of the State, at Richmond, immediately extend the whole might of the commonwealth to come up to the aid of the line of operations. I stand here to-day in sight of the enemy's position, an army now numbering from then to twelve thousand men, under arms, and rapidly increasing by re-enforcements from the North, while I have to-day but three hundred men fit for duty; and while I am without any staff organization, cannon, or any ordnance and ammunition, without any officers, engineers, artillery, or ordnance, and without suitable staff organization, cannon, or any ordnance and ammunition, without any officers, engineers, artillery, or ordnance, and without suitable staff officers, it will be my part to mask your designs and operations; to act for the present absolutely on the defensive; to watch the enemy; to keep you informed of his movements; to rally to my aid the whole country in the rear; to organize, and await re-enforcements from every possible quarter. Indicate to me, as soon as possible, whatever points shall be decided upon in rear of my position for the rendezvous of any proposed re-enforcement. your instructions, also, as to the best position of my own headquarters and of my camp of recruits and organization in my rear will be gladly received. I am moving back the flour from Alexandria to the depots on the railroads in the interior. I am also moving back a large amount of railroad iron, which we shall want for batteries. I am cutting off the supplies from Washington, and sending them back to the farms, or returning what may pass through this place.