HDQRS. DEPT. OF N. CAROLINA AND SOUTHERN VA.,
In the Field, near Chester, Va., May 29, 1864.
His Excellency President DAVIS,
SIR: I had the honor to receive yesterday afternoon, through Colonel Wood, your letter of the 28th instant, inclosing a copy of General Lee's letter of the same date, from near Atlee's Station. I have telegraphed him to inform me when and where I could meet him for a conference. I am now awaiting his answer. The report you refer to of Butler breaking up his encampments in my front is only partially true, and indicates probably a change of position, not a withdrawal of part of his forces. The latest information received from the signal corps (27th instant) is that about 4,000 men have been sent off by him (see report* of Major Milligan herewith inclosed). My force is so small at present that to divide it for thee purpose of re-enforcing Lee would jeopardize the safety of the part left to guard my lines, and would greatly endanger Richmond itself. The question of abandoning in part or in whole my present position from Drewry's Bluff to Petersburg is a momentous one, which requires the most earnest consideration of the Government before it is adopted. The pontoon train reported by Major Milligan on the 27th instant as having been sent up to Butler, signifies probably an intention on his part to co-operate with Grant in his operations against Richmond by throwing a bridge across the James River.
Respectfully, your obedient servant,
G. T. BEAUREGARD.
HDQRS. DEPT. OF N. C. AND S. VA., Numbers 15.
May 29, 1864.
I. It having been reported to these headquarters that our pickets and skirmishers have allowed those of the enemy to advance to within very short distance of our lines, and that the pickets of the two lines are becoming too familiar, it is hereby ordered that no communication whatever should be had between our pickets and those of the enemy. The latter must be fired upon whenever they are seen within range of our guns; due precaution, however, being taken to prevent a waste of ammunition. No exchange of papers will be permitted, and no communication of any kind allowed, except under flag of truce sent by a division commander by direction of these headquarters. Division commanders will see that this order, like all other general and special orders relating to their commands, is read to the troops. This order is dictated by a stern military necessity, as the forbidden practice affords positive advantages to the enemy in procuring information and directing his force; but even if this necessity did not exist, the commanding general still deeply deplores the moral disgrace incurred by his troops in anything like voluntary or unnecessary association with the savage foes who are not only warring against us, but persecuting our women and children, and destroying private property. The hands of such a foe are unworthy the friendly or courteous touch of a Confederate soldier.
II. The regiment of Johnson's brigade and the battery now at Port Walthall Junction will rejoin their commands at once.
54 R R - VOL XXXVI, PT III