I have considered the suggestions of Captain Cuthbert. While I think everything should be done to reward the gallantry of our brave [men] and company officers, and to promote virtue and valor among them, there are many difficulties in the execution of the plan proposed by him for effecting this object. The proper selection of the men and officers for such a battalion would be exceedingly difficult, and, even were it organized, it would be more difficult still to fill properly vacancies which night occur in its ranks. The fact is, general, we have now an army of brave men. The formation of a battalion of honor would reward a few and leave many, equally brave and equally faithful, unnoticed, and, perhaps, with the feeling that an improper distinction had been made between themselves and their comrades.
Again, a battalion of honor would be a distinct order created among us, and such orders have generally been considered inconsistent with the spirit of our institutions. The Congress of the Confederate States, appreciating the difficulties of properly rewarding meritorious conduct in the army, and of inciting a spirit of emulation of deeds of gallantry, proposes the plan embodied in General Orders, Numbers 93, Act Numbers 27, of the Adjutant and Inspector-General, at Richmond. By this act the President is authorized to bestow medals on such officers as shall be conspicuous for courage and good conduct on the field of battle; also to confer a badge of distinction upon one private or non-commissioned officer of each company after every signal victory he shall have assisted to achieve. This soldier is to be indicated by a majority of the votes of his company. If the award fall upon a deceased soldier, the badge will be given to his widow, or to such relative as the President may ad-judge entitled to receive it. This plan meets the difficulty in question in some measure.
I do not approve Captain Cuthbert's plan for the reasons above stated, but, if he desires it, I will with pleasure forward it to the Department, for consideration of the honorable Secretary of War.
I inclose his letter for his signature.
I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
R. E. LEE,
Abstract from return of the Army of Northern Virginia, General Robert E. Lee, C. S. Army, commanding, for the month of January, 1863; headquarters, Fredericksburg.
Present for duty.
Command. Officers. Men. total present.
General staff. 16
Anderson's 568 7,291 7,291 9,810
McLaws' 628 7,572 7,572 9,574
Pickett's 639 6,526 6,526 8,468
Hood's 649 7,307 7,307 9,483
Total First 2,498 28,696 28,696 37,349
Command. present and last Pieces of
absent. monthly artillery.
General staff. 17 15
First Army Corps
Staff. 15 15
Anderson's division. 14,884 14,999 15
McLaws' division. 14,178 14,168 (*)
Pickett's division. 13,894 14,262 (*)
Hood's division. 14,515 14,776 14
Total First Army Corps. .57,486 65,152 29
*Guns not reported on the original return.