NEAR PETERSBURG, December 14, 1864.
His Excellency JEFFERSON DAVIS,
President of the Confederate States:
Mr. PRESIDENT: After sending my dispatch to you yesterday, knowing that the snow in the Valley was six inches deep and the weather very cold, and presuming that active operations would necessarily be suspended, I directed Rodes' division to march for Staunton and requested the Quartermaster-General to send cars to convey it to Richmond. It is now on the road, and should reach Staunton to-morrow evening. If the Quartermaster's Department is active, it should arrive in Richmond Friday morning. A dispatch received from General Early last night states that the scouts just in report that the Nineteenth Corps of the enemy had left the Valley, and that the Eighth was under marching orders. The latter might be preparing to move nearer the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, for I do not think they will strip it of all defense, or both corps may be coming to General Grant. Colonel Wither' scouts report that a New York regiment of infantry and part of the Seventh Regiment of cavalry had left the Kanawha for the Valley, but I supposed they might have been intended to replace the Farrison at New Creek. I do not know what may be General Grant's next move; his last against the Weldon railroad and our right flank failed. The expeditions from Plymouth and New Berne against Fort Branch, on the Roanoke, and Kinston, N. C.,have both retreated before the forces moved against them back to their former positions, and every thing at this time is quiet in the Departments of Virginia and North Carolina. If the reports of the prisoners and the statements of Federal officers to the citizens of country are true, the object of the last expedition was to make a permanent lodgment at Weldon, draw supplies by the Roanoke and Seaboard Railroad, and thence operate against the railroads in North Carolina. General Grant may now be preparing to break through our center, as the canal at Dutch Gap is reported nearly completed. As long as he holds so large an army around Richmond I think it very hazardous to diminish our force. We now can oppose about a division to one of his corps. I fear Savannah is in great danger, and unless our operations there are bold and energetic I am apprehensive of its fall. I hope, though, if all our troops are united, Sherman may be refused. But there is no time to lose. If the Nineteenth Corps does not come to Grant we might spare a division, but if the Nineteenth and Eighth are both drawn to him we shall require more men than we have. I ordered General J. A. Walker, with the Virginia reserves, from Weldon to Kinston, to oppose the movement against that place. He is now on his return to his position on the Danville and South Side roads.
With a firm reliance in our merciful God that he will cause all things to work together for our good, I remain, with great respect, your obedient servant,
R. E. LEE,
RICHMOND, VA., December 14, 1864.
General R. E. LEE,
The danger to Savannah was less the point of consideration than the result to be obtained by successful resistance to Sherman's attempt to march his army to the coast. I know too little of our force in the