HEADQUARTERS, PETERSBURG, September 27, 1864.
GEN. J. A. EARLY, Commanding Valley.
GENERAL: Your letter of the 25th instant is received. I very much regret the reverses that have occurred to the army in the Valley, but trust they can be remedied. The arrival of Kershaw will add greatly to your strength, and I have such confidence in the men and officers that I am sure all will unite in the defenses of the country. It will require that every one should exert all his energies and strength to meet the emergency. One victory will put all things to rights.
You must do all in your power to invigorate your army. Get back all absentees — maneuver so, if you can, as to keep the enemy in check until you can strike him with all strength. As far as I can judge at this distance, you have operated more with divisions than with your concentrated strength. Circumstances may have rendered it necessary, but such a course is to be avoided if possible. It will require the greatest watchfulness, the greatest promptness, and the most untiring energy on your part to arrest the progress of the enemy in his present tide of success. All the reserves in the Valley have been ordered to you. Breckinridge will join you or cooperate as circumstances will permit with all his force. Rosser left this morning for Burkeville (intersection of Danville and Southside Railroads), whence he will shape his course as you direct. I have given you all I can. You must use the resources you have so as to gain success. The enemy must be defeated, and I rely upon you to do it. I will endeavor to have shoes, arms, and ammunition supplied you. Set all your officers to work bravely and hopefully, and all will go well. As regards the Western cavalry I think for the present the best thing you can do is to separate it. Perhaps there is a lack of confidence between officers and men. If you will attach one brigade to Rosser, making him a division, and one to Fitz Lee's division under Wickham, Lomax will be able, I hope, to bring out the rest. The men are all good, and only require instruction and discipline. The enemy's force cannot be so greatly superior to yours. His effective infantry I do not think exceeds 12,000 men. We are obliged to fight against great odds. A kind Providence will yet overrule everything for our good. If Colonel Carter's wound incapacitates him for duty, you must select a good chief of artillery for the present.
Wishing you every prosperity and success,
I am very truly yours,
R. E. LEE,
SOURCE: John William Jones, Life and Letters of Robert Edward Lee: Soldier and Man, p. 340-1