that Burnside's corps left Newport News at that time for the West. He does not state whether the information was derived from his own observation or from others. The New York Times of the 25th and the Washington Chronicle of the 26th state that Burnside was in Cincinnati on the 24th and is charged with the defense of Kentucky, but do not mention his troops. Can you not ascertain definitely whether these statements are correct?
I am, general, very respectfully and truly, yours,
R. E. LEE,
Petersburg, Va., March 30, 1863.
General R. E. LEE, Commanding:
GENERAL: Your letter of the 25th instant is received. My letter forwarding report of Major Drummond was very carelessly written. The report was sent merely to indicate the movement of the enemy, not that I gave any credit to the reported strength. I thought that my desire to move in the direction of Suffolk would indicate to you that I put no faith in the report of numbers. There are no particular advantages in giving battle at Suffolk, except that we might do so by rapid movements, with a greater force than the enemy could have. This to me would be a novelty and something of a luxury. I am quite satisfied that the enemy could be drawn from his intrenchments by threatening his rear. Then, with a superior force, we ought to get the entire force this side of Norfolk. I do not believe that the enemy will advance from Suffolk with a view to give battle unless this force is very greatly reduced. In that event he will have a short and not very difficult route to Richmond. I cannot well concentrate from North Carolina, as the enemy has a force of 10,000 at New Berne, a considerable force at Washington and Plymouth. With his facilities for transportation he can move his troops, and, aided by his gunboats, move against any portion of our railroad; besides, I am obliged to keep all the spare troops in the field hauling in bacon and other supplies. I think it utterly impossible for the enemy to move against your position until the roads are sufficiently dry for him to move around you and turn your position. By re-enforcing here we might destroy the enemy and get our forces together again in time to resist him at the Rappahannock. But if we succeed in destroying him here and have to retire to the Annas before we can give him a general battle we will accomplish a great deal and really have the enemy in a better position for our operations than the one he now occupies. We can cross the Blackwater at any point, as we still hold both banks of the river. It is a very strong defensive line, but can be turned as soon as the roads become dry enough for the enemy to move up the James River with his fleet and army; but I think that a very strong offensive and defensive position could be taken by letting the line cut the Blackwater and rest its left flank on the James, but this would require some aid on the part of our Navy in order to strengthen our left flank.
I remain, general, very respectfully, your most obedient servant,
P. S. - I have just received intelligence by one of my scouts that the enemy sailed on Friday and Saturday from Newport News for the coast of North Carolina. In arranging our forces to protect supply trains