Yorktown, Va., June 26, 1861.
Colonel GEORGE DEAS, Assistant Adjutant-General, Richmond:
SIR: I received information yesterday from Major Hood, operating below with three companies of cavalry and one piece of artillery, that a steamer, with troops on board, landed on the other side of the Poquosin River, in a large barge, one hundred men at Mesick's Point, where we had a vedette. The movement was evidently one of reconnaissance. They staid about fifteen minutes, re-embarked, and returned to Fort Monroe. The day before yesterday Major Hood scoured the country to within two miles of Newport News, passing across it to the Warwick road; then to John Sinclair's farm and New Market Bridge, and by the way of Back River road to his station, at barlett's, on the Poqosin. He did not meet or see any trace of an enemy. Yesterday, about evening, he learned that some three companies of the enemy had marched on the Warwick road, and taken up their position at Whiting's house, this side of New Market Bridge. He detached a party last night to surprise the enemy, but on their arrival found that the enemy had returned to Newport News. These operations will continue. The day before yesterday I mustered in five infantry companies of militia, averaging some two hundred men, and one of cavalry. The infantry companies I stationed near their own houses, to meet three times a week, and in the mean time to attend to their crops and families. The larger number came from the Poquosin, supposed heretofore to have been of doubtful patriotism; but I think a large majority are true. I sent through Gloucester and this county yesterday for spades, shovels, &c., and my quartermaster required them from Richmond.
It is necessary to make intrenchments and place a gun, protected by some infantry, at three or four points on this side of the Poquosin River; also to fortify Harrod's Mills, on the York road, and Young's Mills, on the Warwick road. This line, thus fortified, could not be turned easily. From this I am operate in front of Bethel, to the north of the enemy, and be in reach of re-enforcements when pressed. If operations with infantry are carried on below this line, they will certainly be disastrous in the end, for there is not a position lower down that cannot be turned by the enemy, and in much greater force than ourselves; and should a disaster occur it would be complete, and involve, as a consequence, the loss, probably, of this place.
I do not mean that we should not make a dash into them with infantry and then return to our intrenchments. We must not stay with infantry sufficiently long in any one place below to allow the enemy to take it in the rear, it being in his power to do so at any time, if he knew our position perfectly. The flanks of the line I propose now to occupy are reasonably secure. The right is at the place designated by me to you before, and the left is thrown back to avoid the landing on the other side of Poquosin. If the enemy becomes bold, while we are preparing, he will soon be taught prudence.
A company of the Fifteenth Regiment Virginia Militia, mustered at Williamsburg, about a week ago, and which refused to march under its captain, I have had disarmed, marched here, and the ringleaders are now being tried. I have the guard-house full of zouaves, who will also be tried at once, the courts sitting without regard to hours.
This will be taken up by Lieutenant-Colonel Coppens, whom I send to Richmond in obedience to your orders. Lieutenant-Colonel Coppens appears devoted to his duties, and, from my own observations, though