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Lot 811

Lee, Robert E. Letter signed ("R E Lee / Genl") as Commander of the Army of Northern Virginia, 1½pp, on blue paper, Hd Qr. A N Va., Aug. 14, 1864. To Lt. Gen. [Richard S.] Ewell (1817-72): "On my visit to Howlett's house yesterday, I had a full view of the ground at Dutch Gap, & could see distinctly their tents, & lines of entrenchments in front and rear of their position with rifle pits in advance. The men were concealed from view, probably driven under cover by our fire which from the gunboats, was very accurate. No working parties were of course in sight, but I could see nothing to indicate the construction of a canal as is reported by prisoners and deserters from the enemy. Col. Mayo 3rd Va Regt who is stationed on the point at Howlett's farm, says that owing to the height of the Bluffs at Dutch Gap, and their being thickly covered with tall trees, it is impossible to get a view of their operations from the highest point on his side. Small parties of the enemy however could be seen moving along the bank yesterday, and did not seem much embarrassed by the fire of our batteries or gunboats. Officer command[in]g pickets on the margin of the river reported the enemy at work all night before last. Wagons were heard going and coming unloading plank, also sounds of digging….The details at work are estimated to be about 600 men. Can you not from some point on your side of the river, discover what the enemy is doing. If we cannot arrest his work, we cannot in other ways counteract his operations. Perhaps the Navy might accomplish both objects. I desire you to see Cap Mitchell and see what can be done. Very respectively.y. Your obt. servt. R E Lee Genl."

Dutch Gap was a name applied to a neck of land some 18 miles below Richmond, around which the James River makes a substantial bend. Howlett's Farm was on the south side of the river and a Confederate battery was located near there. In August 1864, Gen. Benjamin Butler, whose army was bottled up in Bermuda Hundred, began to dig a canal at Dutch Gap to save a circuit of six miles in the bend of the river and thus avoid the Confederate batteries, torpedoes, and obstructions which the Confederates had placed to prevent the Federal fleet from moving up the river toward Richmond. The canal was finished in early 1865 but was never used. The letter has some edge chips, a couple of contemporary ink smudges, and normal folds. Lee's signature is extremely bold.
Estimated Value $7,500 - 10,000.

Realized $8,400

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