and have returned. I have felt constrained to draw the picket back to near Dr. Semple's, whence an occasional vedette will move down the road. The enemy is well provided with guides, and can learn the road as well as we can. If this picket were cut off an infantry force could cross the Bethel Creek on the mill-dam below the bridge, and come direct to my camp through the woods without being discovered. I sent out two small parties last night, Captain Curtis with thirty infantry to near Lee's store, and a detachment of thirty dragoons to light camp-fires in the woods at Bethel and to lie in ambush below on the Sawyer Swamp road. As soon as I can I should like to confer with the general in relation to my command.
I am, major, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Major G. B. COSBY,
A. A. A. G., Headquarters Army of Yorktown.
JULY 24, 1861.-Operations on Back River, Va.
Report of Colonel Robert Johnston, C. S. Army.
HEADQUARTERS FORCES FROM COCKLETOWN, Half-Way House, Va., July 25, 1861.
MAJOR: I have the honor to report that I returned to this point yesterday, after occupying Bethel for a few hours, the Messex picket having reported that the enemy had landed in force from nine barges in their vicinity. These barges were towed by two armed steam-tugs under way at this point. I was informed that a detachment of the enemy's forces were occupying a position almost two miles from their boats. Judging them to be in large force, and thinking that perhaps the movement might be a combined one with a party from Newport News or Hampton, I established my headquarters at this point and ordered Lieutenant-Colonel Cumming to join me here, and detached Lieutenant-Colonel Hood, with two guns, a squadron of cavalry, and Colonel Rightor's battalion, and five companies of Colonel Cumming's regiment, under Captain Hardee, to look out [for] this party.
Colonel Hood returned this morning. He found that the enemy had burnt a number of vessels and towed out others, one known to be the property of Mr. Booker, which was loaded with Mr. Booker's effects and was to have dropped down the river last night. The enemy left before dark, and had succeeded in getting out of the river, except one steamtug, which got aground before dusk and was detained until the high tide, but got out before he could fire on it.
I strengthened my picket at Messex Point and established one near New Market Bridge. This picket was not permitted to take its position. It was driven beyond its horses by a strong picket of the enemy, but returned at 12 o'clock and brought off its horses, which had not been discovered by the enemy.
Owing to the fatigue my soldiers had undergone and the difficulties occasioned by the quartermaster's and commissary departments, I have remained in camp here during the day with my infantry and artillery, the cavalry being at Bartlett's to obtain forage. I except to occupy Bethel, where I shall endeavor to secure the negroes in the lower part of the peninsula and to carry out your instructions in relation to this