HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF NORTHERN VIRGINIA,
December 29, 1864. (Received 12 o'clock.)
JAMES A. SEDDON, Secretary of War:
General Bragg reports the enemy's fleet has entirely disappeared from off Wilmington, the ordinary blockading squadron being only in sight this morning. The works erected and other indications show a division had landed, and the movement real.
R. E. LEE.
CONFIDENTIAL HDQRS. ARMY OF NORTHERN VIRGINIA,
December 29, 1864.
I desire that you will avail yourself of the present period of inactivity to reorganize and recruit the troops in your command as far as practicable. Ascertain what regiments, if any, it would be advantageous to consolidate, and how such vacancies as may exist among the officers can best be filled. In every case in which you may think the officer to be promoted unsuitable for the new grade, you will forward a report as to his qualifications in order that he may be brought before an examining board. The difficulty of filling vacancies properly during active operations, and the importance of habituating the officers who are to be promoted to the duties of their new positions, render it proper that there should be no delay.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
R. E. LEE,
HEADQUARTERS FIRST ARMY CORPS,
December 29, 1864.
General R. E. LEE, Commanding, & c.:
Your letter of the 26th instant is received. I cannot think that there is cause for serious apprehension for any portion of General Ewell's line. If my own line were as well filled, I should feel secure against any attack. I should think, therefore, that the men lately recalled to the field could be spared for their important labors in Richmond. As to relieving the entire force under General Ewell by my troops, I do not think that such a step would be prudent. I do not think that the position on this side would be safe with any less force than I have. If General Ewell's forces are withdrawn and replaced by my own, I shall have nothing to meet a flank movement on the part of the enemy. I do not know enough of Major Gibbes' character or services to express an opinion as to his fitness for the command at Chaffin's Bluff. We want there an officer of high moral character and courage, one who will fight his guns as long as he has one to fight. If Major Gibbes is entirely reliable for the work he will be perfectly acceptable. I know Major Haskell better, and should feel more confidence if he were in the position. Can one of the companies of heavy artillery now on the intermediate line be sent down to relieve the company belonging to Chaffin's and now at the batteries on the sough side of the river? General Alexander's attention will be called to the condition of the guns, & c., at Chaffin's Bluff.
I remain, very respectfully, your most obedient servant,