If this army is further weakened we must retire to the line of the Annas and trust to a battle nearer Richmond for the defense of the capital. It throws open a broad margin of our frontier and renders our railroad communications more hazardous and more difficult to secure. Unless, therefore, a retrograde movement becomes necessary I deem it advantageous to keep the enemy at a distance and trust to striking him on his line of advance. A sudden, vigorous attack on Suffolk would doubtless give you that place. Of the propriety of this step you can best judge. To hold it you must control the navigation of the Nansemond or the troops from Newport News could soon be thrown upon you. There is a point about 6 miles below Suffolk where we once had a four-gun battery that was said to be a good position, and other points lower down. A battery, I should think, would also have to be just below Smithfield and one at Manny's Neck, unless there is some better point at the head of the Chowan. If operations in that quarter should draw re-enforcements from General Hooker, more troops could be spared from this army; but I hope you now have available troops in North Carolina sufficient for the purpose. Should you find it advisable to have a personal conference with me at any time I will be happy to see you here, or it may be that I could meet you in Richmond.
I am, with great esteem, very truly, yours,
R. E. LEE,
HEADQUARTERS, March 27, 1863.
General R. E. LEE, Fredericksburg, Va.:
GENERAL: A gentleman, professing to be reliable, informs us that it has been determined at Washington to bring the Sixth Army Corps down to Suffolk to unite with the Ninth. I send you this that your scouts may be on their guard and report such movement at the earliest moment. I expect to move Hood's division down toward Surry County in a few days and to run my line across from the Blackwater to the James, or to some of the streams flowing into the James. my line will then cut the Blackwater at some point near Mayfield. My left will be somewhat exposed to the enemy's iron-clads. If I can have the aid of the Navy on the James I think that such a position would hold the enemy in check whatever his force may be. I do not expect aid from the Navy unless you can get it for me. As my arrangements should depend very much on your plans it is proper that I should advise with you and ask your views. The new position will throw me far away from you, but if we hope to draw supplies from the counties east of the Chowan I think it indispensable.
I remain, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Blount Hall, N. C., March 27, 1863.
Major General D. H. HILL,
Commanding at Greenville, N. C.:
GENERAL: Major Guion furnished me with his map and report of the Contentnea Creek. I ordered Captain Barrows, Engineers, as soon as he reported to commence immediately to lay off the work proposed, and that I would send an officer and working party to execute it. Your call