for purchasing to meet future necessities. The system of impressment, though absolutely necessary, is very objectionable in many ways, and not calculated to bring out fully the resources of the country. If we had coin to offer for provisions I believe that enough would come forward. I have thought that the money or credit that was employed to purchase subsistence abroad, to be brought in through the blockade, might be more safely and efficaciously employed to procure that which is in the hands of our people. If there be any founds abroad or credit which the Government can command for this purpose, it has occurred to me that it would be well to call for proposals to furnish rations to be paid for in foreign exchange in such sums as may be determined upon. Private enterprise would thus be stimulated to collect supplies inaccessible to the purchasing and impressing officers, and the spirit of avarice that is now the worst enemy of the country would be enlisted in its service. The contracts should be awarded to be lowest bidder, and facilities for transportation offered by the Government to reduce the price. I feel convinced that the result would be favorable, and I think that,if possible, it should be tried, even at the expense of the abandonment of any employment of the means of the Government abroad that is not equally necessary to the maintenance of the army.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
R. E. LEE,
ORANGE COURT-HOUSE, January 22, 1864.
General S. COOPER,
Adjutant and Inspector General:
Your telegram of yesterday received. General Hoke went on yesterday with full instructions concerning the troops you alluded to. He probably reached Petersburg last evening.
R. E. LEE,
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF NORTHERN VIRGINIA, January 22, 1864.
Honorable JAMES A. SEDDON,
Secretary of War:
SIR: A regular supply of provisions to the troops in this army is a matter of great importance. Short rations are having a bad effect upon the men, both morally and physically. Desertions to the enemy are becoming more frequent, and the men cannot continue healthy and vigorous if confined to this spare diet for any length of time. Unless there is a change, I fear the army cannot be kept effective, and probably cannot be kept together. I am granting furloughs at the rate of sixteen for each company of 100 men, and eight for every company of 50 men, and other companies in proportion. This alleviates the matter to some extent, but these furloughs cannot be continued with safety longer than the opening of spring, nor increased without embarrassing the railroads in the country. The present distribution of the supplies purchased by the Commissary Department does not effect the object. I recom-