Petersburg, Va., March 3, 1863.
In reference to the inclosed letter* of General R. A. Pryor, and which the lieutenant-general has referred to me, I have to remark: General R. A. Pryor was sent by me to the Blackwater, as desired by General G. W. Smith. A considerable force was then on this line, under a most able officer, who had twice repulsed the enemy in force when he attempted to cross the river. I allude to Colonel C. Leventhorpe. When the enemy began to assemble a force at New Berne in December last I found it obligatory to withdraw all the North Carolina regiments from the Blackwater, and on January 5 last left Petersburg to take command of them for the defense of Wilmington. A few days previous to this General Colston arrived at this place with a brigade. I directed him to proceed with all his command (except one regiment), and dispose of it for the defense of the line on the Blackwater, and to leave the brigade there under the immediate command of General Pryor, and that he should then return and remain in Petersburg during my absence. He was to defend the James, Blackwater, and Weldon while I was near Wilmington. After the sailing of the enemy from Beaufort, and when disposing of the troops, I ordered General J. r. Davis, with his brigade, to the Blackwater, and on my arrival here, as will be seen by the inclosed order,* sent General Colston to command these two brigades and the line of the Blackwater. General Pryor was under General Colston all the time since I left here, and the only change is General Colston has moved down on the line. General Pryor still has the command of a full brigade, just as he had before. Had General Colston gone down and taken his own brigade it would have left General Pryor without a command. But he does not, and leaves his own brigade under General Pryor as he did in the first instance. And I do not think General Pryor has any cause of complaint. He came here without any troops, and he now has the command of Colston's brigade just as he has had for the last two months. I cannot say that General Pryor has been superseded in command. It was necessary to send there a second brigade, and with that increased force General Colston was sent as the immediate commander of the line of the Blackwater and of both brigades. One of the bridges referred to was built by Colonel French, and a second one I directed Colonel Claiborne to build. As regards supplies they have been always directed to be drawn from the enemy's lines. During the summer, pork could not well be cured, and it was not until after General Pryor went down there that the farmers commenced killing hogs. Indeed, they were not then in condition to kill and the weather was too warm.
S. G. FRENCH,
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF NORTHERN VIRGINIA,
March 3 , 1863.
Lieutenant General JAMES LONGSTREET,
Commanding, & c., Petersburg, Va.:
GENERAL: Your letter of the 27th has been received.+ I have heard nothing of the Sixth Army Corps being united with the Ninth. Reports from our scouts on the Lower Potomac as late as the 28th instant give no indication of a movement of troops from Aquia. On the contrary it is stated that within the last fortnight re-enforcements have been re
* Not found.
+ See p. 944.