Headquarters Army of Northern Virginia,

January 11, 1864


His Excellency Jefferson Davis,

President Confederate States, Richmond, Va.:

Mr. President: I beg leave to apologize to Your Excellency for troubling you with subjects which properly ought not to come under your notice, but sometimes I find it impossible to accomplish what is desirable without invoking the aid of all in authority, even including yourself.

The present is a subject of great importance in our crying necessity for food, and the evil may extend further than has been brought to my knowledge, and may exist on distant lines of communication. Recently we have found that the amount of meat invoiced to the army at Richmond is not received here. The practice is at every depot where provisions are received for the commissary to whom they are consigned to be present on the arrival of the train with a guard to take charge of them and see that they correspond with the invoices. A statement is inclosed of the deficiencies discovered, which, in the aggregate, amount to 5,000 pounds of bacon. At our present rate of issue that is equal to 20,000 rations, and is intolerable. The meat is loaded on the cars in Richmond in pieces, each piece counted, and the whole number and weight given in the invoice and railroad manifest. Whether the railroad agent verifies the accuracy of the invoice on reception I do not know. I understand that the railroad is not responsible for the safety of the provisions, but all is conveyed at Government risk, nor does it provide locks or fastenings for the cars.

I have never known of such an arrangement before. All the Government agents along the road have been put on the alert, but the loss is increasing. If the railroad agents will take no care of the safety of the Government freight, Government agents had better be sent with each train of provisions.

Last year I recollect there was some depredation of subsistence stores on the Richmond and Fredericksburg Railroad, and as well as I remember, it was ascertained to have been committed by some of the railroad employés between Hanover Junction and Fredericksburg. Upon their dismissal the depredations ceased. But if there is so great a loss sustained in the transportation of meat from Richmond to Orange, I have feared it might exist on the roads south of Richmond, and it was on this account, as well as in the hope of having that referred to corrected, that I have ventured to bring the matter to the notice of Your Excellency.

I am, with great respect, your obedient servant,

R. E. Lee,





Source: The War of the Rebellion, Series 1, Volume 33, pp. 1076-1077

Transcribed by Colin Woodward, 2021 November 8