I shall be glad to receive from you a return of the strength of your troops and a report of the condition of their arms, equipments, &c.
I am, &c.,
R. E. LEE,
STATE OF SOUTH CAROLINA,
Headquarters, Columbia, January 7, 1862.
MY DEAR SIR: I have been informed from pretty high authority that the telegraph operator at Wilmington, N. C., and perhaps at Petersburg, Va., were not true to us, and perhaps they use their position to suppress or delay matter of importance. I mention this, and would most respectfully suggest that a secret detective be appointed to ascertain the facts, not only there, but anywhere else that there may be suspicion about.
I do not know if it prevails elsewhere in the Army, but I take the liberty to inform you that I fear the feeling of General Ripley towards General Lee may do injury to the public service. His habit is to say extreme things even before junior officers, and this is well calculated to do great injury to General Lee's command. I do not think General Ripley means half what he says in his energetic way, but others construe it differently.
From a copy of the report of forces sent to General Lee by General Ripley, up to December 1, I find many very important omissions. I suppose it must be from inadvertence, for I do not think Ripley at all exact in relation to infantry. I have sent General Lee a correct return. General Lee is a perfect head, quiet and retiring. His reserve is construed disadvantageously. I find him all that a gentleman should be and all that ought be expected of a thorough and scientific officer. The two are in contrast.
I have sent forward lately from this camp five new regiments, not yet reported to Lee by Ripley.
The enemy are only feeling the different points at present. It will be difficult to approach Charleston with less than 50,000 men; and that will be through North Edisto, over John's Island or Stono and over James' Island. They will endeavor to reach the Ashley about 1 mile above Fort Johnson.
If the strength of the forces under General Pemberton were nearer Adams Run it would be safer for Charleston, for it they should happen to cut off the railroad at Pocotaligo, it would cut off 10,000 of our most efficient forces so they could not approach to defend the city. My private opinion is that they will hardly attack Charleston, at least until towards spring. Savannah may be attacked sooner, but they will have to increase their forces first before any serious move can be made against either place.
It will be more difficult to re-enforce with the feeling rising in the North as to the danger of collision with Great Britain. If I could be certain of 3,000 arms from any quarter, I could send forward 3,000 more troops, I have given out State arms in the last two weeks to 4,900 men. These arms I got from disbanded companies in the State, with 1,000 sent from Virginia.
With great respect, and very truly, your obedient servant,
F. W. PICKENS.