thes brave men, as well as the most urgent considerations of public safety, imperatively demand that the ranks of our army should be immediately filled.
The country has yet to learn now often advantages, secured at the expense of many valuable lives, have failed to produce their legitimate results by reason of our inability to prosecute them against the re-enforcements which the superior numbers of the enemy enable him to interpose between the defeat of an army its ruin.
More than once have most promising opportunities been lost for want of men to take advantage of them, and victory itself has been made to put on the appearance of defeat, because our diminished and exhausted troops have been unable to renew a successful struggle against fresh numbers of the enemy. The lives of our soldiers are too precious to be sacrificed in the attainment of successes that inflict no loss upon the enemy beyond the actual loss in battle. Every victory should bring us nearer to the great end which it is be object of this war to reach.
The people of the Confederate States have it in their power to prevent a recurrence of these misfortunes, and render less remote the termination of this desolating war, at much smaller expense of treasure, suffering, and blood than must attend its prosecution with inadequate numbers. They must put forth full strength at once. Let them near the appeal of their defenders for help, and drive into the ranks, from very shame, those who will not heed the dictates of honor and of patriotism. Let the State authorities take the matter in hand, and see that no man able to bear arms be allowed to evade his duty.
In view of the vast increase, of the forces of the enemy, of the savage and brutal policy he has proclaimed,* leaves us no alternative but success or degradation worse than death, if we would save the honor of our families from pollution, our social system from destruction, let every effort be made, every means be employed, to fill and maintain the ranks of our armies, until God, in his mercy, shall bless us with the establishment of our independence.
I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
R. E. LEE,
HDQRS. ARMY OF NORTHERN VIRGINIA, January 10, 1863.
Colonel J. D. IMBODEN, Commanding,&c.:
COLONEL: I thank you for your letter of the 2nd instant,+ received yesterday. I am much gratified to hear of the gallant conduct of Captains McNeil and Imboden, and hope they will continue to harass the enemy as much as possible. I am anxious for you to proceed, as rapidly as possible, in the organization and increase of your command, so that you may bring a strong brigade into the field at an early period. I wish the enemy driven out of the valley entirely, both the South Branch and the Kanawha. Please report to me the state of your command, your effective force in infantry, cavalry, and artillery, and your prospects of increasing it. With regard to the orders of Milroy, you must endeavor to repress his cruelties as much as possible. I will recommend to the Secretary of War that prisoners take from his command be not exchanged, but held as hostages for the protection of our citizens.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
R. E. LEE,
*See Lee to Seddon, same date, Series III.