Washington June 5, 1863-3 p. m.
Prisoners and deserters brought in here state that Stuart is preparing a column of from 15, 000 to 20, 000 men, cavalry and artillery, for a raid. They say it will be ready in two or three days.
H. W. HALLECK,
WASHINGTON, June 5, 1863-4 p. m.
Yours of to-day was received an hour ago. So much of professional military skill is requisite to answer it, that I have turned the task over to General Halleck. He promises to perform it with his utmost care. I have but one idea which I think worth suggesting to you, and that is, in case you find Lee coming to the north of the Rappahannock, I would by no means cross to the south of it. If he should leave a rear force at Fredericksburg, tempting you to fall upon it. it would fight in intrenchments and have you at disadvantage, and so, man form man worst you at that point, while his main force would in some way be getting an advantage of you northward. In one word, I would not take any risk of being entangled upon the river, like an ow jumped half over a fence and liable to be torn by dogs front and rear, without a fair chance to gore one way or kick the other. If Lee would come to my side of the river, I would keep on the same side, and fight him or act on the defense, according as might be my estimate of his strength relatively to my own. But these are mere suggestions, which I desire to be controlled by the judgment of yourself and General Halleck.
A. LINCOLN. -
WASHINGTON, D. C., June 5, 1863-4. 40 p. m.
The president has directed me to reply to your telegram to him of 10 a. m. to-day. My instructions of January 31, * which were then shown to the President, left you entirely free to act as circumstances, in your judgment, might require, with the simple injunction to keep in view the safety of Washington and Harper`s Ferry. In regard to the contingency which you suppose may arise of General Lee`s leaving part of his forces in Fredericksburg. While, with the head of his column, he moves by Gordonsville or Culpeper toward the Potomac, it seems to me that such an operation would give you great advantages upon his flank to cut him in two, and fight his divided forces. Would it not be more advantageous to fight his movable column first, instead of first attacking his intrenchments, with your own forces separated by the Rappahannock? Moreover, you are aware that the troops under General Heintzelman are much less than the number recommended by all the boards for the defenses of Wash-
*SEE SERIES I, VOL XXV, PART II, P. 12.