From the report of our scouts General Meade's whole army is this side of the Rappahannock, and it is stated that he is preparing to march against us. The route he will take is not certain, though a deserter who came in last night reported that he was to force a passage across the Rapidan at Morton's Ford to-day. The heavy rains of this morning may interfere with his plans. It has also been reported by our scouts that on the 10th instant two very large steamers passed up the Potomac loaded with troops. On the 12th, a very large ocean steamer passed up heavily laden, and on the 14th, another steamer passed up, also loaded wit troops. They have been forwarding troops on the Orange and [Alexandria] Railroad for the last few days, which I think are those I have mentioned as having ascended the Potomac. I think it also probable that these troops are conscripts, as the deserter referred to stated that the party he came with was shipped at Philadelphia to prevent their desertion. I also see it stated in the Northern papers that General Meade has been promised that his army shall be filled up to its full organization by conscripts as fast as obtained. The only re-enforcements for this army that I can now obtain is Cooke's brigade, stationed at Hanover Junction. If a portion of Pickett's division could be sent there for the occasion, I should like to draw it to me.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
R. E. LEE,
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF NORTHERN VIRGINIA,
September 18, 1863.
His Excellency JEFFERSON DAVIS,
President Confederate States:
Mr. PRESIDENT: Since my letter of this morning I have received reports from various scouts, all concurring in the statement that General Meade's whole army is between the Rappahannock and the Rapidan. All the corps forming his army have been mentioned and all seem to be present. The Eleventh Corps alone is still north of the Rappahannock guarding the line of the railroad. The reports that have been circulated of some of the corps having been sent to Charleston would appear to have been erroneous, unles they have been recently returned. Their force is apparently so much greater than our own that it is probable we may be forced back, and I am sending off all surplus articles from Orange and Gordonsville.
If it can be ascertained that the enemy has withdrawn his troops from the coast of Virginia and North Carolina, all of ours that are available had better be placed in marching condition for service with this army. I inclose a report* just sent me by General Fitz. Lee, which corroborates others that I have received. Lieutenant-Colonel White, who is operating in Loudoun and Fauquier, says it is reported on the upper Potomac that General Heintzelman has taken command at Harper's Ferry and that re-enforcements are being sent there. I have written to General Imboden to ascertain if this is true and what is its object.
I have the honor to be, with great respect, your obedient servant,
R. E. LEE,