Rappahannock, that Fredericksburg might be seized, and the bridges across the river rebuilt. I do not think General Hooker will venture to uncover Washington City, by transferring his army to James River, unless the force in front of Alexandria is greater than I suppose, or unless he believes this army incapable of advancing to the Potomac. My only anxiety arises from the present immobility of the army, owing to the condition of our horses and the scarcity of forage and provisions. I think it all-important that we should assume the aggressive by the 1st of May, when we may expect General Hooker's army to be weakened by the expiration of the term of service of many of his regiments, and before new recruits can be received. If we could be placed in a condition to make a vigorous advance at that time, I think the Valley could be swept of Milroy, and the army opposite me be thrown north of the Potomac. I believe greater relief would in this way be afforded to the armies in Middle Tennessee and on the Carolina coast than by any other method.
I had hoped by General Longstreet's operations in North Carolina to obtain sufficient subsistence to commence the movement, and by the operations in Northwestern Virginia to continue the supplies. It must, therefore, depend upon the success of these operations unless other means can be devised for procuring subsistence. I therefore submit the matter to Your Excellency for consideration, in the hope that some plan may be formed to attain this object. At present we are very much scattered, and I am unable to bring the army together for want of proper subsistence and forage.
I am, with great respect, your obedient servant,
R. E. LEE,
P. S.-A dispatch from General Stuart, dated 9 p.m. yesterday, just received, states that the heavy rains and swollen streams have entirely arrested military operations on the Upper Rappahannock.
The contest terminated yesterday with the capture of about 40 of the enemy's cavalry at Beverly Ford. Several were killed and drowned in crossing the river. Our loss, 1 killed and 4 wounded. General W. H. F. Lee's brigade was engaged, two regiments being absent. General Fitz. Lee's brigade was held at Amissville.
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF NORTHERN VIRGINIA, April 16, 1863.
General S. COOPER,
Adjutant and Inspector General, C. S. Army:
GENERAL: I have had the honor to receive your letter of the 14th instant, on the subject of re-enforcing the army in Middle Tennessee. I consider if of vital importance that we maintain our possession of the Mississippi River, to do which it will be necessary to hold Rosecrans' army in check. I regret to learn that it so much exceeds our army in strength.
I have reflected with great anxiety upon the condition of affairs in that region, but can arrive at no satisfactory conclusion with regard to re-enforcing the troops in that department. I believe the enemy in every department outnumbers us, and it is difficult to say from which troops can with safety be spared. If it is determined to be best that