The commissaries of the other corps, under orders of the chief commissary of the army, have purchased all the cattle and provisions within their reach. This is the only relief I can afford to the subsistence department in supplying the army. I cannot adopt your suggestions to employ the organization of your bureau to impress provisions. Neither the law or regulations of the War Department, in my opinion, give me that power. I am authorized by the orders of the Department to impress provisions and forage when occasion required, and I have exercised that power under certain emergencies, through the proper officers of this army, but withdrew it when the necessity passed. You wish me to do it continuously, to accumulate supplies for the troops, and to give orders to that effect to the officers and agents of your bureau, over whom I cannot legitimately exercise any control. As I understand the law and regulations on the subject, you can be empowered to do this by the Secretary of War, and I should consider that I was going beyond my province were I to assume that authority.
I have been mortified to find that when any scarcity existed this was the only army in which it is found necessary to reduce the rations. My information not being official, and derived from officers of other armies, I may be mistaken, but I have never heard of any reduction in the meat ration issued to the troops in and about Richmond, Petersburg, Wilmington, Charleston, Savannah, Mobile, or in the Southwest. Many of these troops are in a measure stationary, less exposed to the inclemency of the weather, and undergoing less hardship and danger than the troops of this army. Many of them could with propriety, I think, be placed on lighter diet than troops in the field, and it may have been the case without coming to my knowledge. I understand that at the present time the army of General Johnston is receiving full rations of meat, bread, rice, molasses, and some whisky, while in this army only a quarters of a pound of salt and three-quarters of a pound of fresh meat are being issued. We have also had in addition half rations of sugar and coffee, one day's issued of fruit, and some lard. These latter articles have been of great advantage. I am always glad to hear of troops receiving abundance of provisions at any point, but think all ought to fare alike, if possible. It stops complaint and produces more contaminate.
I have the honor to be, with great respect, your obedient servant,
R. E. LEE,
HEADQUARTERS, Orange, January 5, 1864.
General SAMUEL JONES,
Commanding Department of Western Virginia:
GENERAL: It is with difficulty that I can procure meat for this army, even by issuing half rations. Mr. William Eggleston, Eggleston's Springs, Giles County, is the commissary agent for District Numbers 4, and has been sending some cattle to us, from whom a lot is now due. I have thought you might facilitate his operations and assist him in getting out cattle. If you can I think you would do so and procure all the provisions for this army you can. I have sent two brigades of infantry and two of cavalry into Hardy and Hampshire, with a view of obtaining some cattle that are said