Gaines' Mill, June 10, 1864.
Honorable SECRETARY OF WAR,
SIR: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of yesterday. With my present information as to the movements of the enemy's cavalry I am unable to determine their destination. The last dispatch from General Hampton, dated at Frederick's Hall to-day, states that they encamped last night at New Market, which is on the road from Chilesburg to Waller's Church, General Hampton's own command being nearly west of them at Frederick's Hall. My first impression was that the object of the expedition was to co-operate with the forces under General Hunter in the valley, and there is nothing as yet in their movements inconsistent with this idea. They may intend to strike for the James River above Richmond, and cross to the south side to destroy the Danville road. I think it very important that we should be on our guard against such an attempt, and that parties should be held in readiness to burn the bridges over the river upon their approach. These parties should be under the direction of intelligent and cool men, for fear the bridges might be prematurely fired; and good scouts sent out on the roads to give timely notice of the approach of the enemy. I suppose you will be able to obtain men of the character indicated among the reserve forces of that section.
I will keep you advised as far as I can of the enemy's movements, and should he turn toward the river our cavalry under General Hampton will endeavor to protect the bridges, and, unable to do so, will aid the parties charged with burning them. Under existing circumstances I think it would be best to make every preparation to repair the railroad and the bridges to be in readiness for a more favorable opportunity to restore travel, but it would not be prudent to begin the work now. I am glad to learn that you are exerting yourself to accumulate stores for the army. No effort should be spared to provide against such interruption of our transportation as the enemy's superiority in cavalry may enable him to effect. If practicable, I hope that provision will be made to continue the supply of vegetables. It greatly promotes the health and comfort of the men.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
R. E. LEE,
HEADQUARTERS ARTILLERY CORPS,
June 10, 1864.
Chief of Ordnance, Army of Northern Virginia:
COLONEL: I saw noticed in a recent paper a stink-shell, and it seems to me such missiles might be made useful to some extent at least. We have a few howitzers, chiefly 12-pounders, which can be used somewhat as mortars. They can throw shells occasionally in or near the enemy's trenches. The question is whether the explosion can be combined with suffocating effect of certain offensive gases, or whether apart from explosion such gases may not be emitted from a continuously burning composition as to render the vicinity of