Very soon after General Lee assuned the duties of Commander-in-Chief, in April, 1862, he wrote to General Jackson:
I have no doubt that an attempt will be made to occupy Fredericksburg, and use it as a base of operations against Richmond. Our present force there, is very weak, and cannot be reinforced, except by weakening other corps. If you can use General Ewell's division in an attack on Banks, it will prove a great relief to the pressure on Fredericksburg.A few days later, when the enemy was collecting a strong force at Fredericksburg, General Lee so informed General Jackson, and further said:
For this purpose they must weaken other points, and now is the time to concentrate on any point that may be exposed within our reach. * * * . The blow, whenever struck, must, to be successful, be sudden and heavy. The troops must be efficient and light. I cannot pretend at this distance to direct operations depending on circumstances unknown to me, and requiring the exercise of discretion and judgment as to time and execution, but submit these ideas for your consideration.In commenting on the defects in the Federal strategy of exterior lines, in the spring of 1862, Colonel Henderson says:
On April 29th, Johnston proposed to Mr. Davis that his army should be withdrawn from the Peninsula, and that the North should be invaded by way of the Valley. Lee, in the name of the President, replied that some such scheme had been for some time under consideration; and the burden of his letters, as we have seen, both to Ewell and Jackson, was that a sudden and heavy blow should be struck at some exposed portion of the invading armies. * * *. It was indeed unfortunate for the North that at this juncture the military affairs of the Confederacy should have been placed in the hands of the clearest-sighted soldier in America. It was an unequal match, Lincoln and Stanton against Lee; and the stroke that was to prove the weakness of the Federal strategy was soon to fall.