FREDERICKSBURG, February 13, 1863.
General S. COOPER:
I think a division under Ransom, as well as I can judge at this distance, can be sent. I refer to my letters to the President and Secretary.
R. E. LEE,
Official copy of telegram just received, and respectfully submitted to Secretary of War.
WAR DEPARTMENT, C. S. A., Richmond, Va., February 13, 1863.
Major General SAMUEL JONES, Commanding, &c.:
GENERAL: I have been gratified to hear, by your late letter, of the withdrawal of so large a proportion of the enemy's force from the Kanawha Valley. It inspires at once the inquiry whether the opportunity should not be used for some spirited enterprise, either directly against them, or to divert their forces from their proposed junction with the already superior hostile force in Tennessee. You have, I suppose, a very decided superiority in cavalry force, which, although it has in part been dismounted and sent back, could in a short time be collected and made effective.
It has been very earnestly urged on me here by General John S. Williams and a very large majority of the Kentucky Representatives in Congress, that a force of about 4,000 cavalry, if so many could be spared, should be concentrated from your command and from East Tennessee, and, being placed under his (General Williams) command, or that of some other active cavalry officer, a rapid dash should be made with them into the fertile and abundant districts of Kentucky. The Representatives referred to anticipate from such an enterprise, successfully accomplished, important political consequences in the present excited state of the public mind in that State.
This, as the result of what must be both in plan and execution a mere raid, is to my mind very questionable. The more important advantages to be expected, in my judgment, are that we might divert re-enforcements from Rosecrans' army in Tennessee, and create alarm about reserves and communications; might obtain ready support and forage for our men and horses, and have them in good plight for the coming summer campaign; and, an object of great moment with us, might send back supplies of bacon and salt meat, and drive out large droves of hogs and cattle, to be fattened the coming season on the rich grass land of Southwestern Virginia, now almost destitute of stock.
I wish, before forming a fixed opinion on this subject, to have the benefit of your superior knowledge and judgment on the feasibility and expediency of the operation, and, likewise, in case you approve, your advice as to the selection of the proper leader for the expedition. I shall avoid all committal even of my own mind until I hear from you. Should you approve, it might be well for you to concert with General [D. S.] Donelson, in command of East Tennessee, and begin arrange-