HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE NORTHERN VIRGINIA, April 27, 1863.
His Excellency JEFFERSON DAVIS,
President of the Confederate States:
Mr. PRESIDENT: I have had the honor to receive your letter of the 23rd instant:
I have been much distressed at receiving accounts from time to time of your indisposition. I hope from the tenor of your letter that you are better, and that the present fine weather will soon restore your health and strength. I am very much obliged to you for the steps you have taken to re-enforce our cavalry and to increase our supplies. I feel by no means strong, and from the condition of our horses and the amount of our supplies I am unable even to act on the defensive as vigorously as circumstances may require. A report sent me last night by Major [William] Norris, of the signal corps at Richmond, and which probably may have been submitted to you, states the strength of General Hooker's army to be from 150,000 to 160,000 and that re-enforcements had been sent him from Baltimore, Washington, Alexandria, and Harper's Ferry. Though bodies of troops heretofore retained in Maryland to keep that State in subjection, I believe, have been forwarded to General Hooker, still I think his numbers much exaggerated. But this report, said to be brought by a special scout from Washington, corroborates all previous intelligence, showing that troops from the rear have been moved to the Rappahannock. This would indicate a forward movement of the Federal Army.
A dispatch last night from General Stuart, dated 2 p.m., 26th instant, states that General Stoneman is encamped at Warrenton Junction, with his cavalry in force near Warrenton Springs.
A brigade of infantry (Federal) is guarding Rappahannock Bridge and Beverly and Kelly's Ford, and trains over the Orange and Alexandria Railroad were arriving hourly without bringing troops, so far as known. He may intend to push his cavalry along by that route while is infantry attempt to seize this.
I have written to General Longstreet to expedite as much as possible his operations in North Carolina, as I may be obliged to call him back at any moment. I think that the troops from South Carolina could now be returned to North Carolina,and I am particularly anxious to get back Ransom's division. I hardly think any serious effort can be made against Charleston this summer, and if the force was restored to North Carolina, so that I could recall the troops belonging to this army, I might be in sufficient strength to operate advantageously. Do you think his can be done? If so, it ought to be done as speedily as possible.
Though some of the enemy's gunboats have succeeded in passing our batteries at Vicksburg and Port Hudson, from the accounts I have received, they seem to have paid dearly for their success, and it shows that the river cannot be used as a highway of commerce, so that they can derive no material benefit from it. I hope the additional heavy guns you have sent will more effectually close it.
I am very glad to hear that Fort Sumter is so little injured. If this summer they would construct a revetment of palmetto logs on the seawall, and fill in between this and the scarp with and, it would secure the wall against future attacks.
I do not know whether Ransom or Pender would like to exchange into the cavalry, nor to I know how to supply their places in the infantry. I will see what can be done when the opportunity offers.