• The Lees of Virginia
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  • The Lees of Virginia
  • The Lees of Virginia

The Lee Family Digital Archive is the largest online source for primary source materials concerning the Lee family of Virginia. It contains published and unpublished items, some well known to historians, others that are rare or have never before been put online. We are always looking for new letters, diaries, and books to add to our website. Do you have a rare item that you would like to donate or share with us? If so, please contact our editor, Colin Woodward, at  (804) 493-1940, about how you can contribute to this historic project.


 

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Headquarters Army of Northern Virginia,

November 17, 1862—6.30 p.m.

 

Hon. George W. Randolph,

Secretary of War, Richmond, Va.:

 

Sir: Your letter of the 14th has been received. I am very glad to learn of your purpose to send to Texas to purchase horses for the cavalry. The future supply of subsistence for the army is to me a source of great anxiety. I have endeavored all in my power to economize that that now exists, and to provide for our future wants. While in the valley, the complaint from the officers of an insufficient quantity of food for the troops became so general that, after consultation with the chief commissary of the army, I determined to increase the ration of flour to 1 1/8 pounds and of beef 1 ¼ pounds. It was stated that one great cause of straggling from the ranks was the insufficiency of the ration to appease the hunger of the men. At that time we were using the flour ground from the wheat in the valley, and collecting a quantity of meat on the hoof. No other part of the ration could be furnished to the men, except salt, nor could the men increase their fare by the purchase of bread, vegetables, &c. Their whole ration consisted of bread and meat. From my examination into the matter, I do not think this allowance is too great, and complaints are even now received that the bread ration is too small. The same condition of things now exists. The daily diet of the men is bread and meat, without any additional vegetables, &c., and, in view of the labor before them, I do not think it can be reduced to advantage. If this amount cannot be furnished, necessity will oblige its reduction; but if it can, I recommend it be continued.

We have received in the last few days, about 5,000 pairs of shoes, and clothing and blankets in proportion, which has added very much to the comfort of this army. There are still about 2,000 men barefooted, and about 3,000 more whose shoes are in such a condition that they will not last longer than another march.

Since my letter of this morning, our scouts north of the Rappahannock report that three brigades of the enemy were advancing upon Fredericksburg, and that their advance last night had reached the Spotted Tavern. A division of Longstreet’s corps will move at early dawn in the direction of Chesterfield, and the rest will follow, if the report is confirmed. As a force of the enemy, estimated at from 10,000 to 20,000 is reported to be at Aldie, and another force at Thoroughfare Gap, watching the outlets of the Blue Ridge, I do not know whether this movement on Fredericksburg is intended as a feint or a real advance upon Richmond. In the latter event, before it can move from Fredericksburg, I think this whole army will be in position.

I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

R E Lee       

 

[Indorsements]

 

What has been done, if anything, in the matter of sending to Texas for horses?

GWR [George W. Randolph]

 

Make extract of what concerns commissary and quartermaster supplies, and refer them to the respective officers.

GWR

 

 

November 20, 1862

 

Major Hart has been authorized to buy 1,000 horses in Texas. Extracts sent as directed. File.

Respectfully referred to the Commissary-General

By order of the Secretary of War:

R. G. H. Kean,

Chief, Bureau War

 

Respectfully referred to the Secretary of War, with the remark that the necessities represented merely add to the evidence previously furnished of the necessity of enlarging our sources of supply.

L. B. N. Northrop,

Commissary-General 

 

 

Source: The War of the Rebellion, Series 1, Volume 21, pp. 1016-1017

Transcribed by Colin Woodward, 2017 December 11

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