on the Pugtown road, this morning, and reports that there were 500 or 600 cavalry in Winchester (the force that was at Newtown). He heard a report, or rather rumor, that there were 3,000 infantry at Bunker Hill. I directed the men to report to you. One of my scouts from Front Royal reports that the enemy (2,000 strong) left there yesterday morning on the Wapping road, by which I understand he could either recross the mountains or move to any part lower on the river. Captain Hill, who was sent yesterday with his company toward Front Royal from Newtown, returned this morning, and confirms the report that the Yankees left yesterday morning by the Wapping road. He says that they had four separate camps, probably (judging by fires) of brigades. I am encamped at Stickley's farm, about a mile this side of Cedar Run, and about three-quarters of a mile off the road, having succeeded, in finding hay and fodder here.
Respectfully, your obedient servant,
GEO. H. SMITH,
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF NORTHERN VIRGINIA,
January 4, 1864.
General SAMUEL COOPER,
Adjutant and Inspector General, C. S. Army:
GENERAL: I have received a report from Colonel Willis, commanding Georgia regiment, of his operations up to the 31st ultimo. Colonel Willis was sent by me through the counties of Rappahannock, Page, Madison, and Greene to arrest deserters and stragglers from this army, some of whom have been secreted there a year or more. He has executed his work thoroughly and has arrested about 200. He is now in Rockingham, moving southward. He states, from his observation-
The enrolling and conscript officers are generally disposed to lack energy and neglect their duty, and also the system of details at furnaces, &c., authorized by the Government, is greatly abused, and many exempts, as tanners, blacksmiths, shoemakers, &c., violate openly the condition of the law upon which their exemption is based. Moreover, it is useless for me to arrest citizens for knowing and voluntarily harboring deserters. I made several such arrests, when the proof was indubitable, and the provost-marshal was compelled to release them. Under these circumstances I have ceased to arrest them.
I have no doubt if I could send parties to sweep through every county of the State similar results and evidences of inefficiency and abuse would be obtained. You may recollect that last fall I sent an officer with a regiment to certain counties in North Carolina, where I still have a party operating. These detachments weaken the army, and I have only resorted to them when in despair of otherwise mitigating the evil.
My object in sending you the within extract from Colonel Willis is to see if more energy and efficiency cannot be infused into the operations of the enrolling officers. They ought also to see that the exempts do not abuse the conditions upon which their exemption is based.
I have the honor to be, with great respect, your obedient servant,
R. E. LEE,