counties of Rappahannock, Fauquier, Culpeper, and Madison. You have had heretofore and understanding, I am informed, with the Commissary Department that when it was thus prepared you would send to those counties a detachment of cavalry to countenance and protect the commissary's operations. Some three or four companies, it is believed, will suffice, and it has been suggested to me that they should be of the Seventh Regiment of Virginia Cavalry, who, having been raised in that district of the country, by their local knowledge migh aid in effecting the object. If this detachment could reach that distict about six days hence, it will be in time to answer the purpose. I merely suggest the sending of this detachment, and submit to your own judgemnt the propriety of doing so at this time, or at all. It is represented to me to be important.
With high esteem, very respectfully, yours,
JAMES. A. SEDDON,
[25.] Secretry of War.
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF NORTHERN VIRGINIA,
February 11, 1863.
Honorable JAMES A. SEDDON,
Secretary of War:
SIR: I think it very important to increase to strength of all our armies to the maximum by the opening of the next campaign. Details of officers and men have been sent from all the brigades of this army to collect deserters and absentees. By the return of last month, forwarded to the Department to-day, you will perceive that our strength is not much increased by the arrival of conscripts. Only 421 are reported to have joined by enlistment and 287 to have returend from desertion, making and aggregate of 708, whereas our loss by death, discharges, and desertions amount to 1,878. Now is the time to gather all our strength and to prepare for the struggle which must take place in the next three months. I beg to use every means in your power to fill up our ranks.
I have the honor to be, with great respect, your obedient servnat,
R. E. LEE,
WILMINGTON, N. C., February 14, 1863.
SIR: Leaving Richmond on the 10th in obedience to your instructions, I reached this place on the 11th, and submit the following: Two iron-clad gun-boats (four guns) were commenced hre last spring, but owing to the yellow fever and the constant anticipation of an attack, they have been delayed. One, ready for the iron shield, is yet two months from completion; the other, three. Both, on account of their motive power, will be defficient in speed, say from four to five knots at the best, and of course as rams, their best point of offense, ineffective. They will draw twelve feet, too much, I fear, to operate sucessfully in this river or on the bar. Two others of lighter draft were commenced some time ago; one on the Roanoke at Halifax, the other on the Tar at Tarboroguh, but owing to the want of iron the work on them is partially suspended. The only obstruction in the rivr is two miles below the city, a vary unreliable and imperfect work; it is asurface one, a reft of timber moored with anchors; already the current has swept it partially out of place. At the mouth of the river on the bar vessels have