HEADQUARTERS, Lee's Farm, April 24, 1862.
General R. E. LEE:
GENERAL: In the event of our being compelled to fall back from this point it would be a great convenience to have a few days' provision in wagons, which could meet the army on any road we might take. For the is object I have above 100 wagons in Richmond, which the officer who bears this is directed to keep loaded and ready to move at a moment's notice, provided you can have a sufficient guard furnished for the safety of the stores. I beg that this may be done if possible. My objects is to reduce the size of the wagon trains of our divisions.
Most respectfully, your obedient servant,
J. E. JOHNSTON,
APRIL 24, 1862-2 p.m.
Hon. GEORGE W. RANDOLPH, Secretary of War, C. S. A.:
Two deserters from the enemy were captured in Matthews yesterday, attempting to get home and avoid the fight. They report that sixty mortars have been landed, and that McClellan has made a complete investment of our whole front, and that his works bristle with artillery. They say that he has 200,000 men, most of whom are confident of victory. They report a loss of 400 men on the day Colonel McKinney was killed. If their statements can be relied upon, the enemy has lost near 1,000 since his landing. The men mean to tell a straight tale, but know but little, and are evidently very timid.
Another 24-pounder rifle burst to-day and one of Pierson's 6.4-inch guns. We have but one gun now to keep the shipping at a distance. The smooth-bore guns have no range. Should the gunboats now pass regret that we have made a stand upon the water. The enemy can bring up ten guns to our one, and his guns will be infinitely superior. All his batteries against Yorktown are on the other side of Wormley's Creek. We have but a few guns that will reach them, and of these few the shells do not burst.
There must be something very rotten in the Ordnance Department. It is a Yankee concern throughout, and I have long been afraid that there was foul play there. Our shells burst at the mouth of the gun or do not burst at all. The metal of which the new guns are made is of the most flimsy and brittle character and the casting is very bad.
I learn that the conscription is not to take place for thirty days. If the men are not called out sooner I fear the we will be beaten. The policy of trying to hold every point leaves us always weaker than the enemy at the vital point. We are committing the mistake of the Austrians in Napoleon's first Italian campaign.
I send up an officer to see whether he can get at 6.4-inch gun for Pierson. I hope that it will be tested before sending. The carriage was torn all to pieces. The battery was full of men, but, strange to say, only 2 were killed and 4 wounded.
The Yankee camps could be reached with a 13-inch mortar. He is establishing an enfilade battery against Pierson at the mouth of Wormly.
With great respect,
D. H. HILL.