HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF NORTHERN VIRGINIA, February 5, 1863.
His Excellency JEFFERSON DAVIS,
President of the Confederate States:
Mr. PRESIDENT: Your Excellency's letter of the 4th instant has just been received.*
I yesterday addressed a communication to the Secretary of War, giving the reasons which rendered it probable that an attack would be made upon Charleston. In addition I will state that the fall of Savannah will not carry with it the advantages to the United States Government which would result from their possession of Charleston. It is to be expected then that demonstrations will be made against the former city to attract there re-enforcement.
As soon as the point of attack is ascertained I would recommend that all the troops which can be spared from the city not in danger should be rapidly thrown to the other, as it is clear that both cities cannot be attacked at the same time. Attempts will be made to deceive by advancing against the point not intended for the real attack such gunboats, vessels, and troops as will not be required to discover the feint. As far as I can learn at this distance it seems that the iron-clad gunboats of the enemy are mostly south of the Cape Fear River, and that General that Wilmington is at present in danger of being attacked, though no doubt efforts will be made to detain all of our troops there; they can, however, I think with safety, be detached to Charleston.
Should a sufficient force not be left in North Carolina to guard our lines, which cannot under the circumstances be seriously threatened, some regiments of General Wise's brigade might be temporarily ordered to take their place. In case of necessity troops from this army can be sent to Richmond, and if you think the exigencies of the South more pressing than here I will send them at once.
In my letter of yesterday to the Secretary of War I stated the reasons why I thought we might expect the advance of General Hooker. The weather to-day is unfavorable for his movement, nd it may prove so for some time.
It appears to me that if either Charleston or Savannah is attacked the rest of the coast may be stripped pretty bare of troops without imprudence.
The troops of this army are ready to move at a moment's warning, and all I require is notice where they are wanted.
I presume but few of the enemy's troops are left in North Carolina; perhaps not more than enough to guard his positions.
I have the honor to be, with great respect, your obedient servant,
R. E. LEE,
CHARLESTON, S. C., February 5, 1863.
H. W. MERCER, Brigadier-General, Savannah, Ga.:
Enemy's attack on Genesis Point must be intended to get possession of steamer Nashville. Can't she be sent off? Have ordered you two
*See pp. 1019, 1020.