To: JEFFERSON DAVIS
Headquarters East of Orange Court House August 17, 1862
From dispatches just received from General French it appears certain that General McClellan's force has escaped us. I feel greatly mortified, for though the material damage dealt him in the battles of the Chickahominy was not as great as I could have wished, he must have been so morally shattered as to have induced the belief that the safety of his army required his retreat and to have caused his abandonment of his present attack on Richmond. This of itself I feel as a great relief, but he ought not to have got off so easily. This induces me to say what I have had on my mind for some time. I fear General [D. H.] Hill is not entirely equal to his present position. An excellent executive officer, he does not appear to have much administrative ability. Left to himself he seems embarrassed and backward to act. If the people would think so, I really believe French would make the better commander of the department. This is only for you to think about, but I fear all was not done that might have been done to harass and destroy our enemies, but I blame nobody but myself. General Hampton may have picked up some stragglers, but that is all I can now hope for. I can only conjecture two positions that he will now assume: To ascend the Rappahannock, occupy Fredericksburg, and threaten Richmond from there, or to unite with General Pope. It is possible that hearing of the advance of our army in this direction it may have been taken advantage of to extricate him from his dilemma under the pretense of defending Washington. We shall, however see, but we must lose no time in preparing to meet him wherever he may appear. I wrote you on this subject yesterday, and will not repeat. The troops had better march, beginning at once, using the railroad as far as it goes, and as a help to transport the feeble of all the divisions. By the time they reach Hanover Junction we shall probably hear where the new base is assumed. Colonel Northrop must make arrangements for their provisions, and his arrangements must precede the movement of the troops. I beg you will excuse my troubling you with my opinions, and especially these details, but your kindness had led you to receive them without objection so often that I know I am tempted to trespass. I am getting the troops in position near the fords of Somerville Mills and Raccoon Ford of the Rapidan. They have preceded their transportation and the process is slow and tedious. I hope to succeed by tomorrow, all except Anderson's.
With high respect, your obedient servant
R. E. LEE
SPECIAL ORDERS, NO. 185
Head quarters, Army of Northern Virginia August 19, 1862
I. GenI Longstreet's command constituting the right wing of the army, will cross the Rapidan at Raccoon Ford, and move in the direction of Culpeper Court House.
Genl Jackson's command constituting the left wing, will cross at Summerville Ford, and move in the same direction, keeping on the left of GenI Longstreet.
GenI Anderson's division will cross at Somerville Ford, follow the route of GenI Jackson & act in reserve. The battalion of light artillery under Col S. D. Lee will take the same route. The cavalry under Geni Stuart will cross at Morton's Ford, pursue the route by Stevensburg to Rappahannock Station, destroy the railroad bridge, cut the enemy's communication, telegraph line, and, operating towards Culpeper Court House, will take position on GenI Longstreet's right.
II. The commanders of each wing will designate the reserve for their commands. Medical & ammunition wagons will alone follow the troops across the Rapidan. The baggage & supply trains will be parked under their respective officers in secure positions, on the south side, so as not to embarrass the different roads.
III. Cooked rations for three days will be carried in the haversacks of the men, and provision must be made for foraging the animals. Straggling from the ranks is strictly prohibited, & commanders will make arrangements to secure & punish offenders.
IV. The movements herein directed will commence tomorrow 20th instant at dawn of day.
By command of GenI R. E. Lee:
R. H. CHILTON
271 To GENERAL J. E. B. STUART
August 19, 1862
I desire you to rest your men today, refresh your horses, prepare rations & everything for the march tomorrow. Get what information you can of fords, roads, & position of enemy, so that your march can be made understandingly & with vigor. I sent to you Capt. Mason an experienced bridge builder, &c., whom I think will be able to aid you in the destruction of the bridge, &c. When that is accomplished, or while in train of execution, as circumstances permit, I wish you to operate back towards Culpeper Court House, creating such confusion & consternation as you can without unnecessarily exposing your men till you feel Long-street's right. Take position then on his right & hold yourself in reserve, & act as circumstances may require. I wish to know during the day how you proceed in your preparations. They will require the personal attention of all your officers. The last reports from the signal stations yesterday evening were that the enemy was breaking up his principal encampments & moving in direction of Culpeper Court House.
Very resply, &c.
RE LEE Genl