he wishes the requirements of Paragraph III, General Orders, No. 127, of November 14, from these headquarters, to be carried out, and requests that you will detail a guard from your command accordingly to carry out that paragraph.
I am, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
R. E. LEE,
HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF NORTHERN VIRGINIA, November 28, 1862.
Major General GUSTAVUS W. SMITH,
Commanding,&c., Richmond, Va.:
GENERAL: Your letter of the 26th instant has been received.* Since my letter of the 23d, all the information I have been able to obtain tends to show that the whole army of General Burnside is concentrated along the roads between the Rappahannock and Potomac. No indications of a design to transfer it elsewhere have been discovered. The wharves at Aquia Creek have been built, cars and engines have been seen on the railroad track, which is being repaired, and the telegraph line to Alexandria is being reinstated. No transports have been discovered on the Potomac, but there are war steamers and gunboats lying off the mouth of the creek, and steamboats and tugs, with sailing vessels, employed in transporting supplies for the troops. A new road is being cut from Evansport to Brooke's water station, on the railroad, and it is stated to have been plowed up, harrowed,and rolled. Detachments of troops by land and water are reported to be joining the army, and I judge, from appearances, that whatever military operations are in contemplation will be made from this basis.
What the designs of the enemy are I do not know. His force is represented by our citizens as immense, and he had succeeded in impressing them with the belief that it rises to 400,000. This, of course, is an exaggeration, and I do not believe that it reaches one-half of the number. I have as yet discovered no preparations to cross the Rappahannock, except the collection of a large pontoon at General Burnside's headquarters, on the Stafford road, unless the appearance last evening about sunset of three gunboats at Port Royal may prove the commencement.
While it is necessary to make every preparation against the operations of the enemy south of James River, we cannot hope to meet him at every point with anything like equal force. I think with you that efforts will be made to get possession of Wilmington, and perhaps other points of the railroad south of James River. I think, though, at present these demonstrations are intended as feints; but should they find us weak at any point, they will be converted into a real attack. I wish it were possible to re-enforce you from this army; but if it is weakened by detaching men to the several points named by you, I see nothing left for it but to fall back before the enemy. We must risk some points in order to have a sufficient force concentrated, with the hope of dealing a successful blow when opportunity favors.
The four Mississippi companies, to which you allude, were ordered on the 24th to rejoin regiment, and ought to have been with it on the 26th, the date of your letter.