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[561]

Mr. President: Your letter of the 1st is just received. I have been willing to detach officers to recruit negro troops, and sent in the names of many who are desirous of recruiting companies, battalions, or regiments, to the War Department. After receiving the general orders on that subject establishing recruiting depots in the several States, I supposed that this mode of raising the troops was preferred. I will continue to submit the names of those who offer for the service, and whom I deem competent, to the War Department; but, among the numerous applications which are presented, it is difficult for me to decide who are suitable for the duty. I am glad your Excellency has made an appeal to the Governors of the States, and hope it will have a good effect. I have a great desire to confer with you upon our condition, and would have been to Richmond before this, but, anticipating movements of the enemy which have occurred, I felt unwilling to be absent. I have considered our position very critical; but have hoped that the enemy might expose himself in some way that we might take advantage of, and cripple him. Knowing when Sheridan moved on our right that our cavalry would be unable to resist successfully his advance upon our communications., I detached Pickett's division to support it. At first Pickett succeeded in driving the enemy, who fought stubbornly; and, after being reenforced by the Fifth Corps (United States Army), obliged Pickett to recede to the Five Forks on the Dinwiddie Court-House and Ford's road, where, unfortunately, he was yesterday defeated. To relieve him, I had to again draw out three brigades under General Anderson, which so weakened our front line that the enemy last night and this morning succeeded in penetrating it near the Cox road, separating our troops around the town from those on Hatcher's Run. This has enabled him to extend to the Appomattox, thus inclosing and obliging us to contract our lines to the city. I have directed the troops from the lines on Hatcher's Run, thus severed from us, to fall back toward Amelia Court-House, and I do not see how I can possibly help withdrawing from the city to the north side of the Appomattox tonight. There is no bridge over the Appomattox above this point nearer than Goode's and Bevil's over which the troops above mentioned could cross to the north side, and be made available to us; otherwise I might hold this position for a day or two longer, but would have to evacuate it eventually; and I think it better for us to abandon the whole line on James River to-night, if practicable. I have sent preparatory orders to all the officers, and will be able to tell by night whether or not we can remain here another day; but I think every hour now adds to our difficulties. I regret to be obliged to write such a hurried letter to your Excellency, but I am in the presence of the enemy, endeavoring to resist his advance.

I am most respectfully and truly yours,

R. E. Lee, General.

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April 2nd, 1865 AD (1)
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