to-morrow unless other news is received. If the enemy moves against you you will have to try and hold your positions by obstinate resistance. The force [lately] at Newport News is supposed to be at Suffolk, and a part of it is supposed to be the re-enforcements reported at New Berne. Try and be well advised of the troops in your front, and if any re-enforcements come from Charleston call on General Beauregard for some of his forces, advising him, of course, that the enemy is re-enforced in your front from his. If you find that you cannot hold and protect your railroad, then Wilmington must be looked to and held at all hazards. It cannot be long before we will be able to help you from the Rappahannock. I doubt now if we will be able to give you any further aid from there until the battle is fought on the Rappahannock. The enemy may advance by the Blackwater with his re-enforcements or they may be moved down to re-enforce the garrison at New Berne. Whatever arrangement he makes it seems now that we must first overcome his force at Fredericksburg.
I remain, general, your obedient servant,
RICHMOND, VA., March 19, 1863.
General R. E. LEE,
Commanding, Fredericksburg, Va.:
GENERAL: I wrote you hastily yesterday, which partially answered your letter of the 17th instant. In one of your letters you ask what I can do toward procuring supplies in North Carolina. I can, I think, get all of the supplies in that State if I can use my forces; but if the two divisions are to be held in readiness to join you, or even one of them, I can do nothing. The enemy has 40,000 men, at the lowest estimate, between York River and the Cape Fear. I have about the same, but almost every available man for active operations must be held to re-enforce you; therefore I cannot use them. If the divisions of Pickett and Hood are to be withdrawn whenever the enemy on the Rappahannock advances we shall leave a force of twenty-odd thousand near Suffolk, with no force to oppose it, except Davis' brigade, and on this side of the James River the usual garrison of the city. A tolerably respectable move from Suffolk would give the enemy possession of Petersburg fortified. He could take it without the loss of a man. That point in his possession North Carolina would soon be at his command from the railroad east. That line would cut off most of the supplies that we depend upon for our sustenance. I know that is it the habit with individual in all armies to represent their own positions as the most important ones, and it may be that this feeling is operating with me; but I am not prompted by any desire to do, or to attempt to do, great things. I only wish to do what I regard as my duty - give you the full benefit of my views. It seems to me to be a matter of prime necessity with us to keep the enemy out of North Carolina in order that we may draw out all the supplies there, and if we give him ground at all it would be better to do so from the Rappahannock. It is right, as you say, to concentrate and crush him; but will it be better to concentrate upon his grand army rather than on his detachments and then make a grand concentration on the grand army? If we draw off from the front of his grand army we ought to be able to crush rapidly his detachments, and at the same time hold the grand army in check as far