June 26, 1864
Hon. Secretary of War,
Sir: I fear there is much truth in the accounts which reached the Department of the ravages and outrages committed by the enemy in the Northern Neck and on the south side of the Rappahannock. They are distressing in the extreme, and are more to be deplored because they cannot be prevented. I think the population have more strength within themselves and more power to protect their persons and property than they are willing to realize, and their only safety, in my opinion, depends upon their organizing and driving away the enemy. If a small body of troops from this army could be sent them, as you propose, they could do nothing against the bands landed from boats, who could avoid them on every occasion and be thoroughly informed of their movements by traitors and negroes in the country whom they have in their employ. I have always heard that there were a great many men in that country who should have been in this army, but who could not be got. I think the least they can do would be to turn out and defend their own homes. I think it would be very unsafe forto go far into the Northern Neck, as his retreat could be easily cut off and his presence there would certainly be betrayed. I will, however, write to him and see if he thinks he can accomplish anything in that quarter. At present he is operating in the , where I sent him to endeavor to cut off Hunter’s communications. I think it would be far better and more advantageous if a citizen of the Northern Neck and one of the counties south of the Rappahannock would organize the men in their respective districts and operate against the enemy as Mosby has done in the Piedmont country.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
R E Lee