HEADQUARTERS, Richmond, Va., May 8, 1862.
Major General B. HUGER,
Commanding,&c., Norfolk, Va.:
GENERAL: I have received your letter of the 6th instant with regard to the movements of the steamer Virginia. It is deemed of the utmost importance that she guard the entrance to James River, to prevent its ascent by the gunboats of the enemy. I am aware of the aid she can render in the evacuation of the batteries at Sewell's Point and Craney Island, but it is believed that she will as effectually cover this movement while stationed at the mouth of James River as if in Hampton Roads. The enemy would not be likely to attempt to cross from the opposite side while she was within so short a distance, and she would, moreover, in this position prevent any movement to cut you off by landing a force above.
It is desired that you send the Blakely gun to this city. Such troops as you may find expedient to send by the way of Garysburg will continue to Petersburg. It is intended to hold the line of railroad from the latter place to Weldon, but no points east of it not necessary for its security. It will be necessary, therefore, to station a force sufficient for the purpose at convenient points the road, the remainder of the troops of your department to move to this city, except the regiment of Colonel Clarke, as previously advised.
I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
R. E. LEE,
HEADQUARTERS, Near New Kent Court-House, May 8, 1862.
General R. E. LEE:
GENERAL: I have just received three* letters from your office signed "R. E. Lee, gen'l, by W. H. Taylor, A. A. G.," written in the first person, all dated yesterday.
One of these informs me that certain supposed orders of mine had been countermanded by you or "W. H. Taylor, A. A. G." The matter to which you refer was instructed by me to General Huger. The only order given directly to troops on the south side of James River was intended to carry out one by the President to bring a remnant of Brigadier-General Colston's-brigade to join him. He informed me that his brigade had been ordered to the Peninsula, but that he had left his staff and some other portion of it. He was authorized to order them to join him via Richmond. This was carrying out an order of the Government.
My authority does not extend beyond the troops immediately around me. I request therefore to be relieved of a merely nominal geographical command. The service will gain thereby the unity of command, which is essential in war.
I have had in the Peninsula no means of obtaining direct information from the other departments of my command nor has the Government furnished it. Please inform me without delay of the position and number of the troops in the direction of Fredericksburg. I wish to place them so that they may not be cut off by an army landing at
*Only one found.