and drill is much improved. I have had great pain in being obliged to issue the accompanying general order. The volunteer troops seem to have adopted the theory that all property of the inhabitants was subject to plunder. I have taken the most energetic measures to correct this idea and prevent plundering. There are some few flagrant instances which can admit neither of palliation nor justification. I have proposed to deal with these by court-martial, which I have ordered in session to-morrow. As the outrages to be investigated are very grave, and as the punishment ought to be, and may be, very severe, I will take leave, unless otherwise instructed, to report the proceedings to yourself before any severe punishment is inflicted.
I have had no new accession of troops since my last report, save that a body of men known as the Naval Brigade, amounting to eight hundred and eighty, were reported here as ready to enlist in the service of the United States; but, under the instructions of the War Department, I have not received them into the service, and have sent so many of them home by the steamer in which they were brought as did not voluntarily engage to labor in the engineer, ordnance, and quartermasters' departments about the fortress. These men have very much embarrassed me. While I impute no fault, save that perhaps of want of discretion (which I easily pardon), to their colonel, Washington A. Bartlett, esq., I have been exceedingly annoyed with this whole subject; but I hope it is now finally adjusted.
I have here altogether about six thousand effective men, and no more. I am as yet without transportation trains or surf-boats, which I must have in order to make a movement, the project of which I will submit to yourself in my next dispatch. I am preparing myself, however, to be able to land, by causing one regiment at least to be drilled in embarking in and landing from boats. I have also sent up to the mouth of the Susquehanna to charter or purchase ten of a kind of fishing boats, which, I am informed by a gentleman connected with the squadron, will be the best possible, except regularly-constructed surf-boats, for the purpose of landing troops. I hope to receive them within the next three days.
I have the honor to report the camp at Newport News and the battery there, to command the mouth of the James River, in a state of defense and forwardness, which I think will enable us to hold it against any force which may be brought against it.
We have made an armed reconnaissance some nine miles towards Yorktown, and find no armed men in that direction nearer than the Half-Way House, some twelve miles hence, and that but a picket guard of the enemy, who is in considerable force at Yorktown.
May I most respectfully ask if there is any reason known to the Lieutenant-General why the troops that were expected, and which I understood were promised to arrive here, have not been forwarded?
I beg leave further to call the attention of the Lieutenant-General to the fact that from some oversight, probably in the Adjutant-General's Office, the orders creating the Department of Virginia, North and South Carolina, which I understood were issued when I was in Washington, have not been published; at least I have not seen them. May I ask the attention of Lieutenant-General Scott to this omission, which might prove embarrassing?
I have the honor to be, most respectfully, your obedient servant,
BENJ. F. BUTLER,