required instead of trusting to the railroads, otherwise it will be impossible to collect your troops as speedily as necessary. The railroads must be reserved for transporting munitions of war. I would recommend that you take the field in person and endeavor to get out troops from the State of North Carolina for her defense. Wilmington should be defended at all hazards.
I have the honor to be, with great respect, your obedient servant,
R. E. LEE,
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF NORTHERN VIRGINIA,
January 5, 1863.
Honorable SECRETARY OF WAR, Richmond, Va.:
SIR: I have to thank you for your long explanatory letter of the 3rd instant in relation to operations in North Carolina. Owing to the position of the enemy, the features of the country, and the strength of our army in that State we can only at present expect to act upon the defensive. I hope we shall be able to obtain troops for that purpose. I have relieved much on the troops of that State turning out for its defense, I have relied much on the troops of that State turning out for its defense, and have heretofore found that they have cheerfully and promptly done so when necessity required. If you think any benefit will be derived by sending an officer to Raleigh to inspirit or encourage the people I will detach from this army Major General D. H. Hill, a native of North Carolina, and a most valuable officer, for the purpose. By co-operating with the Governor and State authorities great advantage might be gained. At this distance I do not see how offensive operations could be undertaken with advantage, as the most we could hope for would be to drive the enemy to his gunboats, where he would be safe. The assignment therefore of any of our active forces to North Carolina would to withdraw them from the field of operations, where, as far as I can yet discover, they may be much needed. General Burnside's army is increasing rather than diminishing. The troops from in front of Washington and the Upper Potomac that have not made a junction with him have been moved down toward Stafford. General Slocum's division is at Occoquan and Dumfries. General Sigel's corps is at Stafford Court-House. General Milroy has moved down as far as Martinsburg. From the letter of Mr. Jones, which you sent me, it seems that re-enforcements from Yorktown and Gloucester are being forwarded to him. I have not, however, yet heard of their arrival. It is very clear that General Burnside will not advance toward Richmond unless he is re-enforced. If he determines to go into winter quarters I think it probable that a part of his force may be sent south of James River; but if he does not he must be strengthened rather than weakened. Before the battle of the 13th I think his force could not have been less than 120,000 men; it may have been more. Since then Generals Sigel's, Slocum's, and Geary's forces have joined him. Taking the lowest number, his force is double that of this army. You can judge then of the propriety of weakening it if it is to keep the field. I have always believed that General Foster's force has been much overrated. The reports from citizens, however intelligent and honest, cannot be relied on. Had General Foster received all the re-enforcements that have been reported since this army recrossed the Potomac he ought to have the largest Federal army now in the field. I am not certain that he will attempt any expeditions except those of a predatory character. I think