Charleston to recruit. This would at least restrain the disposition to volunteer in the former regiments. It is not the least evil that results from the encouragement given to men to enter organizations intended for local service that they acquire the idea that they have a right to remain in such service and desert when ordered to other points. I have already mentioned to Your Excellency the cases of the commands from Western Virginia when ordered to this army last summer, as illustrating this fact, and if the reports with reference to the conduct of some of the troops sent from Charleston to Vicksburg last summer be true, it would appear that the same cause has produced a like effect among them.
With great respect, your obedient servant,
R. E. LEE,
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF NORTHERN VIRGINIA,
January 19, 1864.
Brigadier General A. R. LAWTON,
Quartermaster-General, Richmond, Va.:
GENERAL: I desire to state more fully to you my views with reference to procuring a supply of shoes for the army, as I fear that unless great efforts are made the return of the season of active operations will find a large number of the men barefooted.
It is the opinion of the quartermaster of this army that if we were supplied with tools and materials, from one-third to one-half of the army could be shod by the system of brigade shoemakers, already brought to your attention. I am satisfied that this system can be made an important auxiliary of the department, and am anxious that some measure may be devised to procure leather in sufficient quantities. I caused a requisition for the least amount that we could get along with, viz, 37,500 pounds to be made, of which we have only received 8,000 or 9,000 pounds. I hope that the rest will be forthcoming. I think there is leather, and enough, in the country concealed by speculators, of which we never hear until the enemy captures and destroys it. Such was the case at Salem, where General Averell reports that he destroyed cords of it. Such was also the case at Luray and Sperryville. That at Luray, was in the hands of a speculator named Borst, I am informed, who had concealed it there.
If this leather cannot be had in any other way it should be impressed. But before resorting to impressment I would much prefer to resort to the system of exchanging hides for leather. This approaches nearer to a purchase on a specie basis, and would certainly draw out the leather from its concealment, and not have that tendency to repress production which is one of the worst consequences of impressment. I recommend that the prohibition against such exchanges be removed from this army at least, in view of the vital importance of procuring a prompt supply of leather. The result of the experiment would enable you to judge better of its merits, and afford a better idea of the amount of leather in the country than can be otherwise obtained.
Should you resort to impressment I advise that good men be selected to regulate it. Major Bell, quartermaster at Staunton, or Captain Philips, assistant quartermaster at the same place, would