able to hold the force in your front in check until I can join you. The force at Newport News is reported to-day as moving to re-enforce Suffolk. I fear that the real object is to join Foster at New Berne. If this is the intention I shall be obliged to move all of Pickett's division down to Goldsborough. I have tolerably accurate information of this force and put it down at 20,000 full, but its condition is such that I do not regard it as certain to succeed in any desperate undertaking. The prisoners taken at Arkansas Post are expected here to-day. If they arrive they will be organized and armed at once, and will help us along wonderfully. I am about to start out for the Blackwater, and will write to you more fully on my return.
I am, general, most respectfully, your obedient servant,
Kinston, N. C., March 17, 1863.
Major General D. H. HILL,
Commanding at Goldsborough, N. C.:
GENERAL: I herewith inclose dispatches* from Generals Garnett and Pettigrew; they came directed to you; I opened them for the purpose of gaining information of the enemy's movements. I have not heard from General Pettigrew since I saw you. I think, however, that he is not in any immediate danger, or I should have heard from him or Captain Whitford. I have sent a courier to Captain Whitford to find out the state of affairs there and will let you know as soon as I hear. General Robertson I have not yet heard from. Mr. J. C. Washington has a contract with the Confederate Government for the delivery of a large amount of iron, and he has a lot of corn here to enable him to feed his operatives. He has offered to exchange this corn for the same quantity in the vicinity of Tarborough, and as it is more abundant there than here I think it would be well to make the exchange. Will I be allowed to make the exchange? The quartermaster there could give him the quantity that he turns over to the quartermaster at this post. I have received no report this morning from my pickets.
Petersburg, Va., March 18, 1863.
General R. E. LEE,
Commanding, & c., Fredericksburg, Va.:
GENERAL: Your letter of 10.30 p. m. yesterday is received. I do not think it would be well to draw off any portion of Pickett's division at present. All of it cannot well be taken from here as long as the enemy holds this force of his so near Richmond. The force at Newport News and Suffolk cannot be less than 26,000. We shall have to meet that with hardly a third, including Pickett's division; but there are three brigades of Pickett's division near here, which may possibly be thrown up by rail; that is if the enemy makes no effort to advance by the south side. I think, however, that he will make a diversion from Suffolk, and as strong as is in him.
Your letter,+ in relation to supplies, of yesterday is this moment re
* Not found.
+ Not found; but see Longstreet to Hill, same date.