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Headquarters Army of Northern Virginia,

August 5, 1863

Col. L. B. Northrop,

Commissary-General, C. S. Army:


Colonel: Your letter of the 23d ultimo, and a subsequent one without date, have been received. If it becomes necessary to reduce the soldiers’ rations, I shall regret it from the effect I fear it will have upon the army, as I do not think the present allowance more than sufficient to keep the men well and satisfied. If the reduction is made, I think it ought to extend to all the armies, and not to this alone, as was the case last spring.

When ordered, I shall, of course, conform to it, and do all in my power to render it satisfactory to the troops. In all the operations of this army, I have endeavored to economize the supplies as much as possible, and to obtain as great an amount from the country occupied as could be collected.

As regards your latter communication, I agree with you that every effort should be made to accumulate subsistence in Richmond. The necessities of this army and the uncertainty of depending upon our railroads render this apparent. Every assistance that I can give with the army transportation in collecting the grain and transporting it to the depots will be afforded, and immediately on the reception of your letter, Colonel Corley was directed to furnish to the commissary agents you have named the number of wagons you require, or as many in proportion as could be spared for that purpose. He reports that he cannot find Thomas J. Foster, but that he can place at his disposal thirty four-horse wagons under one of his own quartermasters. He has directed Major Bell, at Staunton, to use all his surplus transportation in that district as Mr. Nelson may desire. Major Bell answered that Mr. Nelson is unable to say at present how many teams he may need or can use, but that he (Major Bell) can furnish him fifty teams, probably one hundred, on condition that he procure teamsters. To collect supplies in the Rappahannock Valley, he can furnish twenty teams. These teams will all be placed in charge of quartermasters, and will be set to work as soon as informed that the grain is ready for transportation. As they form a part of the army transportation, and may be needed for its use at any time, there is an objection to turning them over to the commissary agents, but I desire they shall be used in the way you propose.

The arrangement you propose for the railroads I think ought to be made, but I have no means of controlling their operations.

I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

R E Lee,





Source: The War of the Rebellion, Series 1, Volume 29, p. 625

Transcribed by Colin Woodward, 2019 March 26