citizens, as heretofore, and everything shows secrecy and preparation. Their plans are not sufficiently developed to discover them, but I think we can assume that if General Grant is to direct operations on this frontier he will concentrate a large force on one or more lines, and prudence dictates that we should make such preparations as are in our power. If an aggressive movement can be made in the West it will disconcert their plans and oblige them to conform to ours. But if it cannot, Longstreet should be held in readiness to be thrown rapidly in the valley,if necessary, to counteract any movement in that quarter, in accomplishing which I could unite with him, or he united with me, should circumstances require it, on the Rapidan. The time is also near at hand when I shall require all the troops belonging to this army. I have delayed calling for General Hoke, who, besides his own brigade, has two regiments of another of this army, under the expectation that the object of his visit to North Carolina may yet be accomplished. I have heard nothing on the subject recently,and if our papers are correct in their information, the enemy has thrown re-enforcements into that State, and the Neuse is barricaded just above New Berne. There is another brigade of this army, General R. D. Johnston's at Hanover Junction. I should like as soon as possible to get them both back.
I am, with great respect, your most obedient servant,
R. E. LEE,
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF NORTHERN VIRGINIA, March 30, 1864.
Colonel A. L. RIVES,
In Charge of Engineer Bureau:
COLONEL: It is necessary that the engineer corps of this army be reorganized and increased commensurate with the wants of the service. The engineer officers attached to the army have done well, but their numbers are inadequate to the duties. I desire Colonel Talcott, with the First Engineer Regiment,to join me early next month. In addition to this regiment, there will be six pioneer companies, under engineer officers, besides the officers attached to the staff of the army. This would make an appropriate command for a brigadier-general, who should be chief engineer of the army. I do not know whether there is authority for an officer of this grade holding that position, but I must beg for a suitable officer for the duty, with such rank as the law allows. Among the advantages of having a general officer as chief engineer is that he may exercise authority over the troops engaged in engineer constructions on which the whole army is at times employed. The only officers whom I know available for this duty who appear to me to be suitable are General M. L. Smith, Colonel W. H. Stevens, and General G. W. Custis Lee. The first, I understand, is ordered on duty at the bureau, and his services there may be more necessary than in the field. The duties of the second I know are important where he is, and I have reason to believe that a transfer at this time would be embarrassing to him. The third also has peculiar duties which prevent my applying for him, but if he can be spared I should like very much to have him. Any good officer, bold, energetic, and intelligent, who can discharge the duties,