|The following letter is from the appendix of the Memoirs of Robert E. Lee, pages 552 and 553.
[Confidential.] HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF NORTHERN VIRGINIA,
December 6, 1862
HIS EXCELLENCY JEFFERSON DAVIS, RICHMOND,
MR. PRESIDENT: The enemy still maintains his position north of the Rappahannock. I can discover no indications of his advancing or of transferring his troops to other positions. Scouts on both of his flanks north of the Rappahannock report no movements, nor have those stationed on the Potomac discovered the collection of transports or the passage of troops down river.
General Burnside's whole army appears to be encamped between the Rappahannock and Potomac. His apparent inaction suggests the probability that he is waiting for expected operations elsewhere, and I fear troops may be collecting south of James River. Yet I get no reliable information of organized or tried troops being sent to that quarter, nor am I aware of any of their general officers in whom confidence is placed being there in command. There is an evident concentration of troops hitherto disposed in other parts of of Virginia, but whether for the purpose of augmenting General Burnside's army or any other I cannot tell.
From the reports forwarded to me by General G.W. Smith, the officers serving there seem to be impressed with its magnitude. If I felt sure of our ability to resist the advance of the enemy south of that river, it would relieve me of great embarrassment, and I should feel better able to oppose the operations which may be contemplated by General Burnside. I presume that operations in the departments of the West and South will require all the troops in each, but, should there be a lull of the war in these departments, it might be advantageous to leave a sufficient covering force to conceal the movement and draw an active force, when the exigency arrives, to the vicinity of Richmond. Provisions and forage in the mean time could be collected in Richmond. When the crisis shall have passed those troops could be returned to their departments with reinforcements.
I need not state to you the advantages of a combination of out troops for a battle, if it can be accomplished, and, unless it can be done, we must make up our minds to fight with great odds against us.
I hope Your Excellency will cause me to be advised when, in your judgement, it may become necessary for this army to move nearer Richmond. It was never in better health or in better condition for battle than now. Some shoes, blankets, arms, and accoutrements are still wanting, but we are occasionally receiving small supplies, and I hope all will be provided in time.
There was quite a fall of snow yesterday, which will produce some temporary discomfort.
I have the honor to be, with great respect, your obedient servant,
R. E. LEE,
Of course we all know what happened between Lee and Burnside's armies a few days after he wrote this letter. But it does give us an idea of the situation just prior to Fredericksburg, and of how much the defense of Richmond was in Lee's mind. Highly understandable as the capture of Richmond was a goal of the Union's and would have been a serious blow to the Confederacy. Had the city fallen to the Union in 1862, maybe they could have over come it and maybe not. I don't really know, to be perfectly honest.