to General Ewell that I would spare troops for the purpose if it could be accomplished. I am aware of the difficulties and of the enemy's facilities for cutting off a small force, and our inability to apply a large one. Still I hope something can be obtained. I have no idea that Grant will evacuate his position unless forced. It is one from which he can attack us at three points, as he may select, and our success will depend upon our early information and celerity of movement, as we have not troops sufficient to guard all points. I believe the troops reported to have crossed James River this morning are for the purpose of preventing our operations on the river. I have sent Kershaw's division to Chaffin's Bluff to re-enforce General Conner. A mounted force with long range guns might, by a secret and rapid march, penetrate the lines south of the Potomac, and excite the alarm of the authorities at Washington, but if its approach was known, I fear the defenses south of the river could be manned in time to prevent it. Wishing you all health, and prosperity,
I am, with great respect, your obedient servant,
R. E. LEE,
HEADQUARTERS, July 23, 1864.
General R. S. EWELL,
GENERAL: It is stated in the report of General Gary of the 22nd instant that a body of cavalry landed on the 18th instant at Harrison's Landing, passed through the country, and embarked on flats at Wyanoke Ferry on the 19th. This force is stated to be 200, but as it would take a large number of flats to convey 200 horsemen across the river, I presume it was not near that number. He also states that owing to reports of an army corps of the enemy having landed on the 21st, his dismounted men fell back to the woods without orders, failing to notify him of their position. He therefore was unable to station them on the lookouts till after daylight on the 22d. I presume a similar report may have been made to you, but I have thought it proper to call your attention to the matter to see if arrangements cannot be made to prevent their recurrence. A small body of cavalry ought not to be allowed to traverse the country with impunity, nor should men on duty leave their posts on bare reports without necessity or reporting the fact. Conduct of this sort may lead to grave disasters. Lieutenant Welch, commanding General Gary's scouts on the river, reports that he has selected a good position for observing the vessels at City Point, but that he has not a good glass. Can a better one be provided for the purpose? General Conner reports on the 22nd that the nature of the ground at Bottom's Bridge conceals from view enemy's troops near the river, and to hold the river road near Tilghman's an observatory permanently would require a large force, which would be subjected to constant shelling. Cannot an observatory be erected at some point secure from being shelled, so as to watch the pontoon bridge of enemy and adjacent ground? In a report of General Conner this morning he states that the enemy has laid another bridge near the former and out of sight of the observatory. I need not inform you how necessary it is at this time to receive accurate information of the enemy's movements. He is operating on a long line and threatening three points of vital importance to us-Richmond, Bermuda Neck, and