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The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies

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OFFICIAL RECORDS: Series 1, vol 42, Part 3 (Richmond-Fort Fisher)
Page 1174 OPERATIONS IN SE. VA. AND N. C. Chapter LIV.

navy in the defense of Richmond as expressed in my letter, with the hope that if approved by you will so represent the case to the honorable Secretary of the Navy, should the subject become one of conference between the two Departments. I would also respectfully suggest that the dangers apprehended by Captain Mitchell might be rendered of less probable occurrence if it be in the power of the navy to increase the number of men and small boats to picket the river in rear of the ironclads when they go down for guard duty at night.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

R. E. LEE,

General.

[Inclosure Numbers 1.]

FLAG-SHIP VIRGINIA, JAMES RIVER SQUADRON,

October 23, 1864.

General R. E. LEE,

Commanding Army of North. Virginia, Hdqrs. near Chaffin's Farm:

GENERAL: Further reflection since my conversation with you last evening on the exposure of squadron to destruction from the torpedoes of the enemy, satisfied me that it demands the most serious consideration if, as I presume is the case, the naval forces on the James River are held to be important to the ulterior as well as the present protection of Richmond. With the aid of five wooden gun-boats the iron-clads have hitherto managed but imperfectly to picket the river so as to make it somewhat hazardous to the enemy to attempt the placing of torpedoes, yet I always felt assured that he had opportunities, and would, when ready, avail himself of them for that purpose, especially with the information he derived from our deserters, if not from his own observations, of our means and the disposition of our pickets, &c., showing the numerous points that were unguarded in an extent of more than two miles. The enemy's batteries, which opened yesterday and caused the retirement of our gun-boats, will hereafter lessen materially their usefulness for the particular picket service, or prevent its being effective. besides, at this time there is but one efficient gun-boat available, two being absent for repairs to their gun carriages, and two insufficiently manned to work their guns, one of which is occasionally required for detached mail and passage service for the accommodation of army and navy. I went down last night to Bishop's Bluff with the iron-clads Virginia and Richmond, and my conviction has become thoroughly fixed that now more than ever the enemy may, any night or foggy day, by means of boats transported overland, place torpedoes in any part of the river in front of his intrenchments, except at the points actually occupied by our vessels, even if the southern bank of the rive were picketed, for we claim to have the ability and are prepared or preparing to place torpedoes in the face of the enemy's pickets on the river. The attempts hitherto to place them in the rear of the enemy below Dutch Gap have failed, no doubt, for the want of adequate protection from land forces, a protection which the enemy can now readily give to his own torpedo parties anywhere below Chaffin's Bluff, and the temptation to him must be very great to intercept by these means the return of our iron-clads to our anchorage near Chaffin's after having performed a tout of nigh guard at Bishop's Bluff. If, then, the danger to the iron-clads be conceded, the question arises, if they are held to be important to the more immediate defense of Richmond now and prospectively, does the service they, do and may render, by moving down the


Page 1174 OPERATIONS IN SE. VA. AND N. C. Chapter LIV.
OFFICIAL RECORDS: Series 1, vol 42, Part 3 (Richmond-Fort Fisher)
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