services of every man being greatly needed, General Lee is most anxious that all prisoners should be relieved by exchange as soon as possible, in order that our ranks may be increased. These prisoners have been sent back to Winchester, with orders there to await exchange.
I am, sir, respectfully, your obedient servant,
[R. H. CHILTON,]
Near Martinsburg, W. Va., September 23, 1862.
(Received September 29, 1862.)
Honorable GEORGE W. RANDOLPH, Secretary of War:
SIR: It occurs to me that a good effect would be produced upon the regimental and company officers if a law was passed giving the Department of President authority to degrade them from their positions upon clear proof of bad conduct in the presence of the enemy, leaving their posts in time of battle, and deserting their command or the army in the march or in camp, and providing between the ages of eighteen and forty-five to immediately enroll them and place them in the ranks. There is great dereliction of duty among the regimental and company officers, particularly the latter, and unless something is done the army will melt away. You will see by the field return this day sent to General Cooper the woeful diminution of the present for duty of this army. The absent are scattered broadcast over the land.
I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
R. E. LEE,
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF NORTHERN VIRGINIA,
Camp on the Opequon, near Smoketown, September 23, 1862.
His Excellency President DAVIS, Richmond, Va.:
Mr. PRESIDENT: My desire for the welfare of the army and the success of the war induces me to trouble you very often. In addition to the matters to which I have recently called your attention, there is another of vital importance to the service. A great number of officers and men borne on the rolls of the army I fear are permanently incapacitated for duty. These should be discharged and their places filled with effective men. Justice would seem to require that some provision should be made for their support, but whether this had better be done now or left to the close of the war you and Congress must determine. Companies whose rolls show a maximum of men cannot be filled by accepting new members when they offer, unless the inefficient men be removed, nor can the places of officers unfit for duty be filled until the present incumbents are retired. The subject of recruiting this army is also one of paramount importance. The usual casualties of battle have diminished its ranks, but its numbers have been greatly decreased by desertion and straggling. This was the main cause of its retiring from maryland, as it was unable to cope with advantage with the numerous host of the enemy. His ranks are daily increasing, and it is just reported, on what I consider reliable authority, that 40,000 joined the army of General McClellan on the day after the battle of Sharpsburg. We have now abundance of arms, and if the unarmed regiments in Texas and Arkansas could be brought forward, as well as the conscripts from the