and agents among the thousands who in town and country are for one cause or another exempted from military service, or among those who, though liable to military service, contrive in some way to keep out of the army. But in this I have been mistaken. When a person gets a Government contract or agency, his first endeavor appears to the to get his friends our of the army in order to help him. Then there are hundreds who go home on sick furloughs, and, while there, look out for places to which to be detailed, and forward petitions, stating in strong terms the necessity, &c., inclosing surgeons certificates showing their competency for that work and no other. There is nothing so injurious to the army, in my judgment, as to detail men who resort to these subterfuges to escape military duty. The details of men are not the only losses of this sort sustained by the Army of Northern Virginia. There are constant applications for our best young officers, trained in this army, whom we can ill spare, to go on duty in other departments, sometimes with the inducement of promotion, oftener in order that they may be nearer home. Of the thousands of men detailed for special purposes, so far as my knowledge goes, very few, if any, ever return.
There are some regiments reduced almost to insignificance by these details, with but little hope of recruiting them again. I cannot think that the numerous details already made are employed with system and economy, when Colonel Wadley speaks of a "full regiment" of Government transportation agents collected at some point on the North Carolina Railroad.
With these facts before me; with the additional fact stated in a recent letter to the Department that the number of deaths and discharges in this army far exceeded the number of new enlistments by conscription; with my views of the necessity of recruiting the army, if possible, to a number far greater than it has ever yet attained, and believing, with proper exertions, the different Government agents and contractors can find workmen enough for their operations outside of the army, except in a very few limited cases, I have thought it best not to recommend many of the applications for detail referred to me by the Department, where the officers commanding the company and regiment gave satisfactory reasons for not being able to spare them.
I do not know whether you will agree with me in my conclusions, but the constant efforts now made by persons of all classes to get their friends out of the army by detail, or light duty, as they call it in many cases, or by transfer from an army in active service to some regiment or company where there is little chance of any service, have made on me, I fear, the impression of waning interest on the part of the people in our cause. This should not be so, for if there ever was a time when we needed every man at his post, and every musket which we can bring to bear, that time will be in the campaign about to open with the spring.
With this explanation of my reasons for not approving many of the applications for details referred to me, I hope will not be considered wanting in "consideration and deference for the judgment of the Department."
All details which the Department may order from this army will be made at once, but, if referred to my judgment, I fear I will be unable to recommend them, unless compatible with my views of the necessities of the service, both here and elsewhere.
I have the honor to be, with great respect, your obedient servant,
R. E. LEE,