General Foster left me in doubt as to whether he was bound for the Cape Fear River or farther south. I see it stated too in the Northern papers that 75,000 troops from this army have reached North Carolina, and that re-enforcement were being sent from it to General Bragg. These were made use of as arguments why General Hooker can move upon Richmond. General Hooker has many strong reasons to induce him to take this step, and if he believes that but a feeble resistance can be made to his advance he will be likely to do so. I think this was one of the main causes that impelled General Burnside to make his last attempt on the 20th ultimo, in which, as far as I can see, it was fortunate for him that he was balked by the storm. I am trying to be prepared for any movement that may be made by General Burnside to make his last attempt on the 20th ultimo, in which, as far as I can see, it was fortunate for him that he was balked by the storm. I am trying to be prepared for any movement that may be made by General Hooker, but if the pressure on Wilmington is the more urgent it should be concentrated as near as possible to Wilmington, leaving their places to be supplied, if necessary, from here. I beg leave also to suggest that your directions by telegraph for the movement of troops which you desire to conceal be sent in cipher, as I have found that otherwise they invariably become known. There are persons who frequent the telegraph office with no evil purpose but form curiosity to learn the news; others are near to catch what transpires, and thus information in spread and reached wrong ears.
I have the honor to be, with great esteem, &c.,
R. E. LEE,
WAR DEPARTMENT, C. S. A., Richmond, Va., February 4, 1863.
General R. E. LEE, Commanding, &c.:
SIR: Yours of this date is just received. My dispatch on yesterday was intended to keep you advised of the apprehended movements of moving or making preparations for moving some portion of your forces either here or toward North Carolina. I did not mean even to recommend such present movement, for my own judgment, unless controlled by later advises or the result of your convictions on he intelligence received, would not have dictated such movement. Had I left any necessity for pressing my own conclusions upon you I should have simply suggested that you hold 2,000 or 3,000 men (a brigade) in readiness to move promptly to this city to replace General Wise's, which in case of any sudden movement by the enemy into North Carolina or against Wilminton, though a feint toward the latter place is probable and a real attack possible; but I think a formidable attack by sea, and perhaps by land too, is about to be made on Charleston.
The presence of so many of the iron-clads in Beaufort, S. C.; the sailing lately of many transports with troops from the North Carolina ports southward, and the slight attacks recently essayed against Savannah, which last were probably only for a diversion, all induce the conclusion that Charleston is the real object of attack. In addition, the late attack on the blockading squadron nd the known inability of the enemy to keep up their blockade with wooden vessels, which alone can lie off