the direction of the Orange and Alexandria Railroad. The cars on said road are in active operation. I cannot tell whether they are carrying back or bringing forward troops.
I am, with great respect, your obedient servant,
R. E. LEE,
HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF NORTHERN VIRGINIA, Camp near Culpeper Court-House, November 17, 1862.
Hon. GEORGE W. RANDOLPH, Secretary of War, Richmond, Va.:
SIR: From the general reports received from the scouts yesterday, it is plain that the enemy is abandoning his position around Warrenton, and does not intend to advance in the direction firs assumed. His troops and trains, as far as can be discovered, are moving toward the Orange and Alexandria Railroad; but whether with a view of massing them on that line of communication, to threaten Gordonsville, or to fall down upon Fredericksburg, or to retire toward Alexandria, to be transferred by water south of the James River, I cannot yet discover. The railroad trains are kept in active operation; but it is not known whether they are employed in carrying troops toward Alexandria or in bringing them in this direction. Knowing the difficulties of his pursuing his former route along the Blue Ridge, I have supposed from the half that has taken place, that he intended to march upon Fredericksburg, but have learned of no preparation to rebuild the wharves,&c., at Aquia, or to subsist his army, which would naturally precede such a movement. I think it, therefore, probable that the movement in execution is with a view of transferring the army south of James River, and the appointment of General Burnside to the command favor his supposition. I will give you further information as soon as anything reliable can be ascertained. But in the mean time I beg that every preparation that can possibly be made, with a view of opposing in North Carolina, may be urged forward.
In the condition in which both corps of this army now are, I do not think it advisable to advance upon the enemy, as it might injure their efficiency in future operations, which I think are threatening us. Partial operations, however, have been and are being made, tending to embarrass and damage the enemy.
I learn that Colonel Imboden was unable to destroy the bridging at Cheat River, in consequence of the strength of the enemy in that quarter, and is in position on the Shenandoah Mountains. He captured one company of the enemy, paroled the men, and brought off their arms and equipments. Colonel Davidson reports that the force which has been threatening Staunton has retired beyond the Alleghanies.
I am, most respectfully, your obedient servant,
R. E. LEE,
Write to Governor of North Carolina, giving extract from this letter, and request that measures be taken to hurry forward the conscripts and send back absentees to their regiments.
G. W. R.[RANDOLPH.]
Every effort will be made to hasten the return of absentees and obtain conscripts.