the Potomac during the past week, only two or three steamers passing up and down during the day. Numerous sail vessels with the large amount of hay descended. From the number and size of transports he estimates that from 15,000 to 20,000 troops have descended the river since the 9th. The army in front of us is still very strong, compactly located along the railroad from Falmouth to Aquia, with cavalry on either flank, extending from river to river. It is now so difficult to get in or out of his lines that I had to send Fitz Lee's cavalry to force an entrance. With 400 men he broke through 5 miles north of Falmouth, found them in strong force, fell upon their camps, and brought off 150 prisoners, including 5 commissioned and 10 non-commissioned officers.
Major Moses took his departure yesterday.
I will give directions about Hood's guns, if they have not gone.
Make them take care of all the horses.
With great respect, your obedient servant,
R. E. LEE,
Wilmington, N. C., February 28, 1863.
Honorable JAMES A. SEDDON,
Secretary of War, Richmond, Va.:
SIR: The chief object I propose to gain in my application for a battery of 30-pounder or 20-pounder Parrotts and for a brigade to occupy Brunswick County is to strengthen Fort Caswell, always the weakest point in the system of defenses here. Its inherent weakness, that is due to its construction and armament, I am endeavoring to overcome by increasing its defenses and its armament as fast as our means will permit. A memoir detailing the design and progress of these works will be shortly submitted for your information. But its isolated position, cut off as it is from relief from the mainland, renders necessary the establishment of interior positions to arrest, at any rate materially to delay, the advance of the enemy beyond gaining an entrance, supposing him to succeed in reducing the fort. Fort this purpose, in addition tot he very few guns I am able to command for permanent location on the Smithville Bluff, there are no better means than those proposed - a good battery of four or six Parrotts, supported by a column of troops able to make a formidable resistance to an attempt at lodgment on the main. Such an attempt would undoubtedly be the first object of the enemy should they succeed in entering the outer harbor. It would furnish them with a depot. They would strongly fortify it. It would give them a base for future operations exceedingly embarrassing to us, and would effectually prevent any possibility of relief to Caswell. The facility with which such a battery might be moved to different points commanding the anchorage or the channels, and its well-known effect upon steamers and transports would give at the smallest outlay the greatest available accession to our strength. I know no position where such a battery is more needed. Nothing that is possible to procure should be omitted in endeavoring to preserve the outer harbor from the enemy. I have directed the construction of lines to reply landings and over these guns in their field of operations, a work which has heretofore only been postponed, partly from works of perhaps more immediately necessity and partly from the small-box pestilence which has raged in that vicinity. The troops required are necessary in addition to what I already have,