ANDERSON, January 26, 1865-8.15 a. m.
No charge in the fleet can be seen from here except an increase of two schooners inside. Two of the gun-boats seem to be raisin steam.
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF NORTHERN VIRGINIA, January 27, 1865.
Honorable SECRETARY OF WAR,
SIR: I have the honor to call your attention to the alarming frequency of desertions from this army. You will perceive, form the accompanying papers, that fifty-six deserted from Hill's corps in three days. I have endeavored to ascertain the causes, and think that the insufficiency of food and non-payment of the troops have more to do with the dissatisfaction among the troops than anything else. All commanding officers concur in this opinion. I have no doubt that there is suffering for want of food. The ration is too small for men who have to undergo so much exposure and labor as ours. I know hater are great difficulties in procuring supplies, but I cannot help thinking that with proper energy, intelligence, and experience on the part of the Commissary Department a great deal more could be accomplished. There is enough in the country, I believe, if it was properly sough for. I do not see why the supplies that are collected form day to day could not, by intelligent effort, be collected in such a manner as to have more on hand at a given time. The fact that they are collected at all is proof that they exist, and it must be possible to gather more in a given time than is now done. It will not answer to reduce the ration in order to make up for deficiencies in the subsistence department. The proper remedy is increased effort, greater experience in business, and intelligent management. It may be that all is done that can be, but I am not satisfied that we cannot do more. I think the efficiency of the army demands an increase of the ration, and I trust that no measure will be neglected that offers a chance of improvement.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
R. E. LEE,
[Inclosure Numbers 1.]
JANUARY 19, 1865.
Lieutenant A. F. FLEET,
Acting Assistant Adjutant-General:
I have to report this morning that three of the picket detail from Company G, Thirty-fourth Virginia Infantry-Privates Albert Andrews, James Austin, and William Austin-deserted their post lost night about 10 o'clock. About 10.30 o'clock I visited the pits and found one unoccupied; nothing in it but three guns and accouterments, nor could the occupants be found. The three occupied the same pit. I immediately made arrangements for the pit to be reoccupied. I found the men vigilant at that time and throughout the night. I think that no blame can be attached to the men who occupied the pits on either side