Headquarters, January 12, 1864

Respectfully returned to the Honorable Secretary of War.

I am unable to judge at this distance of the danger threatening Wilmington. I cannot see that the enemy is collecting any force against it, and when he does he must withdraw it from some other point, whence our forces must also move to meet it. This is the only way that I know of resisting an attack upon it. If the defenses of Wilmington require “the constant presence of an army,” I do not see where it is to come from. I see no danger in using the garrison of the forts to resist a landing or approach at other points to gain time for concentration of troops. I think Martin’s brigade and two light batteries sufficient to watch the threatened point. The custom of the enemy when he wishes to attack one point is to threaten a distant one; the troops are rushed to the threatened point and the real point is exposed. I could at this time send some troops from here, but when should I get them back? Then it would be seen that it was impossible to withdraw them. Three divisions of this army, and they of the best, are now scattered over the country, and I see no prospect of recovering them. The troops want some rest, some time for reorganization and recruiting their ranks. The enemy is making great efforts to reorganize their army in my immediate front. Large bounties are given to those who re-enlist. Many are re-enlisting by means of their people at home, so as to prevent the draft. Conscripts to their ranks are also daily arriving. According to our scouts on the Potomac, over 2,000 have come up to Alexandria, since the beginning of this year. I see nothing doing on our part, and I fear the spring will open upon us and find us without an army.

R. E. Lee,

General

 

 

 

Source: The War of the Rebellion, Series 1, Volume 33, pp. 1070-1071

Transcribed by Colin Woodward, 2021 November 8, 2021