HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF NORTHERN VIRGINIA,
February 20, 1865.
GENERAL: General Lee desires me to say that he wishes you, as a precautionary measure and in accordance with the general orders of the Adjutant and Inspector General's Office of the current series, to cause the removal of the cotton and tobacco stored in Richmond. He has written to the Secretary of War on the same subject, and wishes to call your attention to the other order spoken of (of which we have no copy in this office.)
I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
C. S. VENABLE,
Lieutenant-Colonel and Assistant Adjutant-General.
A true copy:
General Lee afterward sent a printed order directing department and other officers to remove or destroy certain articles. This was accompanied by another letter, to the effect that tobacco and cotton must be moved, or in case of necessity burned. I will send these as soon as returned.
R. S. EWELL,
February 26, 1865.
Major R. P. DUNCAN,
MAJOR: There was some firing from the enemy yesterday evening into the city. Their fire was directed toward a building on Lombard street which was on fire. There were eighteen desertions from Ransom's brigade, fourteen from Wallace's, seven from Gracie's, and eighteen from Wise's, to the enemy; also two from Wise['s and one from Gracie's to the rear. By agency of men secretly serving the officers, a combination of a considerable number of men, say for fifty to sixty, proposing to desert was discovered in Wallace's brigade last night, and five men connected with it, as is thought, were arrested. It is thought there is a communication from the Appomattox River to the right kept up among the men on the subject of desertion. It is stated that men of Ransom's brigade have been arrested who had made arrangements to meet men of Kirkland's Scales' brigades at the intersection of the dirt road with the South Side Railroad where forage is unloaded, about three miles from the city. The men of Wallace's brigade who were detected, it is said, were to rendezvous at the spring near the Ragland house. In Wallace's brigade last night, non-commissioned officers were required to be moving all the time on the line, and to report to the officers, on picket duty every quarter of an hour, but non-commissioned officers are about as unreliable as men. Every exertion is being made to prevent desertion, and to hold parties responsible when it occurs. Efforts are being made to secure through good men full information of all that is going on in each company, and increased activity and vigilance are required of men and officers on duty. For two days the enemy has seemed to be feeling my line to determine what artillery is on it.