FREDERICKSBURG, May 20, 1863.
His Excellency JEFFERSON DAVIS:
Mr. PRESIDENT: I cannot express the concern I felt at leaving you in such feeble health, with so many anxious thoughts for the welfare of the whole Confederacy weighing upon your mind. I pray that a kind Providence will give upon you, and that you may soon have the gratification of seeing the country liberated from its enemies, and all your labors crowned with success.
In the matters I propose now to submit to the consideration of Your Excellency, I shall endeavor to be brief.
Paxton's and J. R. Jones' places have been filled by Walker and John M. Jones. Should the latter officer fail in his duty, he will instantly resign. I have not yet been able to fill Nicholls' place. I have not seen Colonel Walton, but Longstreet thinks he would not like the exchange, and I am doubtful whether he would answer. The misfortune is that the brigade is at present commanded by Colonel [Edmund] Pendleton, who is not highly considered, and its services, I fear, will be lost to the army. I have determined to place Gordon in command of Rodes' former brigade. That will leave Lawton's vacant. It the latter is not wanted elsewhere, he can be returned to it. But i believe Colonel Edward Willis, of the Twelfth Georgia, or Colonel John T. Mercer, of the Twenty-first, would answer better for the field. Both have been educated at West Point; the later served several years in the army. i think it better to relieve Colston from duty, and to place General George [H.] Steuart in command of his brigade. The brigade is composed of two North Carolina and three Virginia regiments. The former have complained of being commanded by a Virginia brigadier, and I presume the latter would complain if commanded by a North Carolinian. General Steuart being of the old army, no one has a right to complain. I shall write to General Cooper for General Steuart. I shall also write to General Trimble to know whether he can take general control of affairs in the Valley. He will have Colonel [H. B.] Davidson at Staunton, and General Jenkins with the cavalry below.
I have for the past year felt that the corps of this army were too large for one commander. Nothing prevented my proposing to you to reduce their size and increase their number but my inability to recommend commanders. Each corps contains, when in fighting condition, about 30,000 men. These are more than one man can properly handle and keep under his eye in battle in the country that we have to operate in. They are always beyond the range of his vision, and frequently beyond his reach. The loss of Jackson from command of one-half the army seems to me a good opportunity to remedy this evil. If, therefore, you think Ewell is able to do field duty, I submit to your better judgment whether the most advantageous arrangement would not be to put him in command of three divisions of Jackson's corps, to take on of Longstreet's divisions, A. P. Hill's division, and form a division of Ransom;s, Cooke's, and Pettigrew's brigades, and give the corps thus formed to A. P. Hill. In this event I also submit to you whether it would not be well to promote Ewell and A. P. Hill. The former is an honest, brave soldier, who has always done his duty well. The latter, I think upon the whole, is the best soldier of his grade with me.
Inasmuch as this army has done hard work, and there is still harder before it, i wish to take advantage of every circumstance to inspire and encourage them, and induce the officers and men to believe that their labors are appreciated, and when vacancies occur that they will receive