I now occupy the line of the Rappahannock. I appreciate the advantages of regaining East Tennessee, but fear the object will not be accomplished by sending a portion of the army to General Samuel Jones. I do not know the difficulties that he has ha to contend with, but at this distance it has not seemed to me that he had done all that might have been accomplished with the forces under his control. He ranks every major-general in this army, including those in Longstreet's corps. I am not satisfied that he knows the force opposed to him. His reports are rather conflicting. Before sent back Core's brigade, I urged him to retain it, to concentrate his troops, and advance to Knoxville, but he then thought that there was only cavalry in his front, and that nothing could be accomplished. I do not now see the necessity, even though five Indiana regiments should have passed through Tazewell en route to Morristown, for General Williams, abandoning Bristol. Morristown is 70 miles from Bristol and about 30 from Tazewell. He might have at least waited the approach of the enemy, who seems to have been a hundred miles from him. If General Jones will concentrate his troops and march against the enemy, he may repulse him. If the object of the latter be the destruction of the salt-works, I fear no part of this army could reach there in time to prevent it, as the distance is nearly 300 miles. Before it could reach East Tennessee, I fear the season would be so far advanced as to render all efforts unavailing. If re-enforcements are to be sent to the West, I think it best that they should go to Chattanooga, where a winter's campaign would be practicable. Although we might be able to drive from Williamsburg, Yorktown, and Gloucester Point, we should have to abandon them, as troops could not be spared for their defense.
The reported invasion of North Carolina by General Foster ought to be confirmed before moving troops so far to oppose it. Should such an attempt be made, I would recommend that all the troops in that State and those from near Richmond be immediately sent to meet it, and I could replace those taken from Richmond by other troops from this army. I think it highly important to keep our troops as active as possible, and to strike the enemy at every vulnerable point, and should be very glad to use this army wherever it can be of most service. I would not, however, recommend that it be too much dispersed until we have some reason to believe that the army of General Meade, now greatly it superior in numbers, has abandoned the contest for this campaign.
If you can give me any exact information as to the numbers and position of the enemy at any pont where you think it most expedient to send the troops, I shall be very glad to meet your views.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
R. E. LEE,
Hon. JAMES A. SEDDON,
Secretary of War, Richmond, Va.
RAPPAHANNOCK RIVER, October 20, 1863.
General Stuart yesterday opposed at Buckland the advance of General Kilpatrick's division of cavalry, while General Fitz. Lee attacked his flank and rear. The enemy was routed and pursued