tell you how we lost them; but, being lost, repining will do no good and we must endeavor to avoid the ruin which now threatens us.
I will tell you some things which you may regard as facts: My corps has taken prisoners or contrabands from the enemy as many as half the number of days in the last three months. I have not failed with eye and voice to make searching examinations of all, and I am convinced that he officers and men of the Southern army are at this moment much move vigorous in health and more able for that reason to march and to fight than our army is.
The South is not deficient in plain food in abundance. It is my opinion that their grain on hand and growing is enough for two year's supply. To think of starving them out is simply absurd unless we can destroy their rail and water lines of communication, when their armies would starve simply on account of the badness of the Virginia roads in wet weather.
This army is able to hold its present position, but cannot assume the offensive without a re-enforcement of at least 100,000 men. That is the least number any man will estimate whose opinion is worth more than a dream.
The newspapers will tell you that the health of this army is improving. It is only apparently improving. Comparative rest has produced a seeming improvement during the last three weeks. I speak from no hearsay nor from any man's theory: I go every day and inspect several regiments. If any other officers do this I do not know their names. I find that a majority of the generals are beginning to droop. I find the men are becoming weaker by the day- their minds and bodies are growing weak together-and, though I despise most theories, I will say that to pen up more than 100,000 men and animals in a space so small that you can find no point of that space which is one mile distant from its outside boundary on the James River in the months of July, August, and September is to secure disease, weakness, and nostalgia as a certain crop.
Our enemies are not fools, and they will soon find means to shut up the James River below us or make its navigation enormously expensive to us. They will find the means also to annoy us in other ways, and unless we receive vast re-enforcements they will succeed in ruining this whole army, and this army lost, the North is necessarily from that moment at the mercy of the South.
Some persons affirm that it will have a bad moral effect or a bad political effect to withdraw this army, but will the effect be worse than to remain here and do nothing? We can neither operate against the enemy nor build up our own army on this spot. Then why do we stay here?
The South has already put forth all its strength and will continue to do so. We have not, and we must bide our time and employ our means to the best advantage.
Do you fear intervention? It will not be less to be feared if we have an army where it can be employed than to have one where it cannot be employed.
Do you fear cost? It will cost just as much (and more if you estimate for sickness) to maintain the army and build it up here is it would to carry it away to a healthy district and build it up to return the whole to the James River next October.
If the movement begins to-morrow or the next day, or even one week
hence, I think this army could be removed in safety; after that its removal would be of doubtful possibility. If, therefore, you value the