PETERSBURG, July 23, 1864.
His Excellency JEFFERSON DAVIS:
Mr. PRESIDENT: I have had the honor to receive your letter of the 22nd instant inclosing a memorandum of information obtained of the probable movements of General Grant's army. I am aware of the ease with which the troops sent for the protection of Washington can be returned to this point. I, however, think it very doubtful whether President Lincoln will permit this to be done as long as General Early is so close to the Potomac. Should he be able to obtain a large militia or volunteer force on the north bank of the Potomac, it might be hazarded, but I have not discerned any alacrity exhibited by such troops to take the field. General Early supposed the force which engaged him on the 18th at the Shenandoah to be composed of the Sixth Corps, Hunter's troops, and two divisions of the Nineteenth Corps. I had previously heard of the arrival in Washington of the latter corps from New Orleans, and that it was originally destined for Grant's army, but was diverted to meet that emergency. Its presence in Washington is confirmed by the inclosed letter,* which seems to be from Mr. Baxter, member of Congress from Vermont.
I have written to General Early to inquire what has become of the force he drove across the Shenandoah, and to say that if he cannot detain it on that frontier, it will be necessary for him to return. I have thought much upon the subject of intercepting the enemy's communications on James River, and have written to General Ewell that I would spare troops for the purpose if it could be accomplished. I am aware of the difficulties and of the enemy's facilities for cutting off a small force, and our inability to apply a large one. Still I hope something can be obtained. I have no idea that Grant will evacuate his position unless forced. It is one from which he can attack us at three points, as he may select, and our success will depend upon our early information and celerity of movement, as we have not troops sufficient to guard all points. I believe the troops reported to have crossed James River this morning are for the purpose of preventing our operations on the river. I have sent Kershaw's division to Chaffin's Bluff to re-enforce General Conner. A mounted force with long range guns might, by a secret and rapid march, penetrate the lines south of the Potomac, and excite the alarm of the authorities at Washington, but if its approach was known, I fear the defenses south of the river could be manned in time to prevent it. Wishing you all health and prosperity,
I am, with great respect, your obedient servant,
R. E. LEE,
July 23, 1864.
Honorable J. A. SEDDON,
Secretary of War:
General Early reports that General Ramseur on the 20th attacked the enemy, udder Generals Averell and Crook, advancing on Winchester. Encountering a much superior force, he was compelled to fall back to the fortifications at Winchester, where he checked their advance. He lost 4 pieces of artillery, 250 men in killed, wounded,