Chaffin’s Farm, October 4, 1864

Hon. Secretary of War,


Sir: I beg leave to inquire whether there is any prospect of my obtaining any increase to this army. If not, it will be very difficult for us to maintain ourselves. The enemy’s numerical superiority enable him to hold his lines with an adequate force, and extend on each flank with numbers so much greater than ours that we can only meet his corps, increased by recent recruits, with a division reduced by long and arduous service. We cannot fight to advantage with such odds, and there is the gravest reason to apprehend the result of every encounter. The substitution of negroes, under the act of the 17th of February last, for all detailed laborers, teamsters, &c., should be extended not merely to detailed men in the army, but to all men detailed as mere laborers in any public employment, such as cutting wood for furnaces, mines, and the like. I trust the reasons which induced the Department not to enforce that law are not such as cannot be overcome. It is certain that the need of men was never greater, and I hope that all the aid we can get from this source will be at once given us. But the re-enforcements to be expected from the substitution of negro labor for white will not be sufficient. The men at home on various pretexts must be brought out and be put in the army at once, unless we would see the enemy reap the great moral and material advantages of a successful issue of his most costly campaign. I know it will produce suffering, but that must be endured, as all people engaged in a struggle like ours have done before. If we can get out our entire arms bearing population in Virginia and North Carolina, and relieve all detailed men with negroes, we may be able, with the blessing of God, to keep the enemy in check to the beginning of winter. If we fail to do this the result may be calamitous. The discouragement of our people, and the great material loss that would follow the fall of Richmond, to say nothing of the great encouragement our enemies would derive from it, outweigh, in my judgment, any sacrifice and hardship that would result from bringing out all our arms-bearing men. I also beg leave to ask whether it will be in the power of the Department to furnish any horses for our artillery. The efficiency of that arm is much impaired by the scarcity and inferiority of its horses. I know the difficulties that surround this subject, and only desire to be informed whether there is any prospect of relief.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

R E Lee





Source: The War of the Rebellion, Series 1, Volume 42, Part 3, p. 1134

Transcribed by Colin Woodward, 2018 September 5