HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF NORTHER VIRGINIA, January 25, 1864.
Honorable SECRETARY OF WAR,
SIR: I have received a copy of an authority granted by the Department to Lieutenant John W. Carter, assisted by Sergt. John Chew and Jasper N. Jones, of Chew's battery, to raise a company of horse artillery within the enemy's lines. I have often had occasion to bring to your attention the practical working of similar authorizations, and respectfully ask that my previous representations be considered in connection with those I now have the honor to submit. I should hesitate to repeat my views on this subject were they merely matters of opinion, but I deem it improper to withhold form you the results of actual experience and facts but too fully attested by the records of this army and the serious diminution of its numbers.
Such authority as that granted to Lieutenant Carter will inevitably result in taking men from our infantry service, where they are most wanted, and promoting dissatisfaction and desertion among those who remain. This, as I have stated, is not a matter of opinion only, but a well-ascertained fact. I do not hesitate to say that there is not a single command of the kind proposed by Lieutenant Carter to be raised in which there are not men properly belonging to this or some other of the principal armies of the Confederacy, which can ill afford to lose them. This fact proceeds in part from the direct efforts of those engaged in raising such commands to procure enlistments regardless of the obligations of those whom they approach, and partly from the strong disposition of the infantry to get into the cavalry or artillery, and of all to enter organizations which promise them service near their homes or of a local character. Already such organizations have in a good degree absorbed those men upon whom we relied to swell our reduced ranks for the coming campaign, and the consequences, in my judgement, involve the question of our ability to keep the filed against the largely recruited armies of the enemy unless every man who belongs to the army be retained and all fit for active service be sent to it promptly, so as to increase materially its present strength. We must rely for deliverance form our enemies upon other means than our arms. I trust that the truth of this assertion may be realized in time.
In addition to the repeated instances already made known to the Department of the enlistment of men belonging to this army in other commands, I now have the resignation of Captain Wellington Eastham, of Company E, Forty-ninth Virginia regiment, based upon the fact that of 34 men now remaining on his muster-rolls but 2 are present for duty. Some of the absentees are satisfactorily accounted for, but an inspection shows that of the 34 there are 14 deserters, 2 or whom are known to be in Gilmor's battalion, 1 in the Twelfth Virginia Cavalry. A second lieutenant absent without leave is also in Gilmor's battalion. Captain Eastham, who is represented by his superior officers to be attentive and zealous in the discharge of his duty, says: "A large majority of those absent have either deserted or joined other commands, from which I have been unable to recover them. Repeated attempts to recover and recruit my company have proved fruitless. " I need not enlarge upon the importance of filling up this company before making new or increasing those engaged in local service. While preparing to write this letter, Brigadier General J. M.