Camp Orange Co: 8 March ‘64



I was in Richmond when your letter arrived; & have been so much occupied by the recent movements of the enemy, that it is only to day that I can reply. I think the enemy’s great effort will be in the west, & we must concentrate our strength there to meet them. I see no possibility of mounting your Command, without stripping all others of animals & rendering them immoveable. If horses could be obtained for you, where is the forage, & equipments to be procured? The former is not to be had nearer than Georgia. It Could not be furnished by the R. R., & I do not think equipments Could be impressed through the Country. If you & Johnston Could unite & move into middle Tennessee, where I am told provisions & forage can be had, it would cut the armies at Chattanooga & Knoxville in two, & draw them from those points

where either portion could be struck at in succession as opportunity offered. This appears to me at this distance the most feasible plan. Can it be accomplished? By covering your fronts well with your Cavalry, Johnston could move quietly and rapidly through Benton, across the Hiwassee, and then push forward in the direction of Kingston, while you taking such a route, as to be safe from a flank attack would join him at or after his crossing the Tennessee river. The two Commands upon reaching Sparta would be in position to select their future course, would necessitate the evacuation of Chattanooga & Knoxville, & by rapidity & skill unite on either Army. I am not sufficiently acquainted with the country to do more than indicate the general plan. The particular routes, passages of rivers &c you and Johnston must ascertain & choose. The condition of roads &c may oblige you to pass through the western portion of N. C. But this you can soon ascertain, if you do not already know, as well as the distances each column would have to traverse, before uniting, their point of junction, time of marching, &c. The agents of the Commy Dept tell me there is an abundance of provisions & forage in Middle Tennessee & which is corroborated by individuals professing to know that country. But this should be investigated, too. It is also believed by those acquainted with the people, that upon the entrance of the army into that country that its ranks will be recruited by the men from Tenn and Ken who have left it. A victory gained them will open the Country to you to the Ohio. Study the subject, communicate with Johnston & endeavor to accomplish it, or something better. We Cannot now pause. I will endeavour to do something here, to occupy them if I cannot do more. I hope Alexander has joined you with his new commission. The promotion of the other officers of arty was ordered as proposed, during my last visit to Richmond. Walton retains his former position in the Washington Battn.

Wishing you all success & happiness I am very truly,

R E Lee



Source: Call number 23312, Library of Virginia, Richmond

Transcribed by Colin Woodward, 2017 October 27