CONFIDENTIAL.] CAMP FREDERICKSBURG, January 23, 1863.
Mr. PRESIDENT: I have thought it my duty to give you all information in my possession which might enable you to form a correct estimate of the character of the principal officers of the army. I have thought this due to yourself and called for by the momentous contest in which we are engaged. In that spirit I inclose a letter from General Ransom addressed to General Chilton. It is without the knowledge of the former but with the assent of the latter. I beg you will make the same allowance for the feelings of the writer that I do. He is evidently, as he states, smarting under a supposed degradation of position; cannot be supposed therefore to take the most favorable view of affairs, yet he narrated circumstances which if true are not calculated to cause anticipations of happy results. You have the means of obtaining information which I have not. I have no fear therefore of injustice being done to General Smith. I have not only the kindest feelings but have conceived the highest opinion of this officer, not so much from my own observation as from the estimate of all the officers under whom he has served. I confess, however, that the letter of General Ransom makes me more anxious that General Kirby Smith should be in command in North Carolina, and as I fear you may find difficulty in changing his assignment I have determined to write to you. I think it probable that General G. W. Smith's state of health makes him apprehensive of exertion or excitement, and a more quite command may be necessary for his condition. If so, the service or position may require a change. It may be better, if General Kirby Smith cannot be obtained, that General Elzey should take the field and General Smith resume his position at Richmond. I had supposed that General Ransom would have liked the tour of duty in North Carolina, and I wished him to have had the opportunity of filling the ranks of his regiments. I am sorry it one. I was surprised to learn from General A. P. Hill on my return that the other two North Carolina brigades, Pender's and Lane's, which had been ordered off, were delighted at the suspension of their order. They did not wish to go to North Carolina. Please destroy General Ransom' letter after perusal.
Wishing you all health and happiness, I remain, with great esteem, your obedient servant,
R. E. LEE.
STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA, EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENT,
Raleigh, N. C., January 24, 1863.
General GUSTAVUS W. SMITH, Goldsborough, N. C.:
MY DEAR SIR: Yours, accompanying the orders, &c.,* received this morning. My proclamation will appear in the morning papers, and everything that I can do shall be done. I received information this morning from Wilmington that General Whiting had seized all the teams, hands, and boats belonging to the State salt agent and completely stopped the works. This is a great calamity to our people to stop the making of 350 bushels of salt per day right in the midst of the pork-packing season. I can scarcely conceive of any such emergency as would justify it. A little trouble on the part of General Whiting's quartermaster would have enabled him to press teams in the adjacent counties, and a requisition upon me for labor would have furnished as