Hd Qrs: Richmond
13 May 1861
Col: P. St. George Cocke
Commg Virga Forces
Hd Qrs: Culpepper Ct House Va
I have just recd your letter of the 12th Inst: & hasten to give such explanation as I can of the Circumstances to which it refers. Your Change of rank has resulted from the action of the Convention. Before the termination of its Session an ordinance was passed requiring all appointments in the military service by the Governor to be Submitted to the Convention for Confirmation.
The Convention also determined , as I have understood, to reduce the number of the higher grades in the Service, which resulted in the renomination by the Govr by & with the advice of the Council, of Several officers for appointments to grades one degree lower than those to which they had been originally appointed. Genl Gwynns, Genl Johnstons, Genl Ruggles, yours & others were of this number.
Another ordinance of the Convention gave to officers of the Provisional Army rank above those of the Volunteer forces of the same grade & Subjected them to duty with the volunteers until required for Service with the Pro. Army Col: Ruggles & Col: Terrett having been appointed in the Pro: A. it was incumbent on me to reorganize this rank. It therefore became necessary to change Your Command which I did with regret. Of the circumstances attending it, I supposed you were cognizant, as the action of the Convention I think occurred before your last visit to this City.
When Col: Jackson was sent to Harper Ferry it was to muster into Service the companies there assembled, with a view of organizing a force as rapidly as possible to hold that point. Hence he was not directed to report in person, to you in his [write?], as that would have occasioned delay, though it was well understood that Harpers Ferry was enhanced within your Command. At the present time as well as for the reasons given in S. Orders No 39 it was deemed advisable to give to the Commander at Harpers Ferry Command of that Station, without reference to any other question.
I hope you will perceive from the foregoing explanation, which has been necessarily brief, that the change in your Command was dictated by necessity & not by Choice. In assigning the officers within your former district to their present posts I was guided entirely by the Convenience of the Service, & a desire to hasten the organization of the troops. It is temporary & designed to meet the exigencies of the occasion.
As to yourself I desired to have the benefit of your knowledge of the troops & officers Called from the extensive Country assigned to you, in their organization & equipment, & hoped the Service would be as agreeable to you, as I believe it will be beneficial to the public. Reorganizing as fully as I do your merit, patriotism & devotion to the State, I do not Consider that either rank & position are necessary to bestow upon you know, but believe that you will Confer honor on the position.
In the present crisis of affairs I know that your own feelings, better than any words of mine, will point out the best Course for you to advance the Cause in which you are engaged & to promote the interests of the Service which you have so much at heart & will have to the voice of your fellow citizens to assign to you the position you desire
I am with high respect & esteem
R E Lee
Source: University of Virginia Special Collections, facsimile of original on file at the duPont Library, Stratford Hall
Transcribed by Colin Woodward, 2016 January 6
 Walter Gwynn (1802-1882) was born in Jefferson County in present-day West Virginia. He was a general in the Provisional Army early in the war and was named a brigadier general in North Carolina. His rank was adjusted to colonel in 1862 and he resigned his commission in 1863 to become the comptroller of Florida. He died in Baltimore in 1882 and is buried in Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond.
 George Hunter Terrett (1807-1875) of the Provisional Army of Virginia. Colonel Terrett was assigned to command Camp Pickens, near Manassas Junction, by Special Orders No. 92, on 1861 July 5. He resigned his commission in the army that year and apparently later served in the Confederate Marines as a major. He died in 1875 and is buried in Fairfax, Virginia, at National Memorial Park.