Burnside's preparations for an attack. Indications from the most authentic sources pointed to this region as that on which the attack would be made, and the question arose, Should the army receive the attack on the first or second lines? The engineers were in favor of the second line as the safest, the front line being liable to be turned by the landing of the enemy on York River, on our left flank. Fully appreciating the reasons for this advice, and concurring in the opinion as to the many physical advantages offered by the second line, I nevertheless was satisfied that it would injure the morale of the army to fall back from its position at Young's and Harrod's Mills, where winter quarters had been built for some of the regiments. I therefore directed that the heavy baggage been built for some of the regiments. I therefore directed that the heavy baggage built for some of the regiments. I therefore directed that the heavy baggage and sick be sent to the rear, and that the troops on the front line who had not built their winter quarters should built them, and all on that line should fight where they, while the rest of the troops who had not built winter quarters should build them on the flanks of the second line, and that good, of easy communication, should be made from the first to the second line. By this means, if the enemy attacked in front alone, the troops on the first line could be supported by those from the flanks of the second line, if attacked in front and both flanks.
Our troops in front had as strong a central position on that line as they would have had on the second, and a greater certainty of victory, as they would fight on better ground for us, and the flanks of the second line, resting on the river, would be stronger to resist a naval attack. This disposition was also made to defend the left exposed flank between Yorktown and the Poquosin River, so that if the enemy did land there he would be held in check sufficiently long to give time to our troops on the first line to fall back with deliberation and safety to the second line. Thus all would be accomplished in the end that the advocates of this measures desired and without unnecessary loss of morale.
This decision carried with in the additional recommendation, that if the attack were delayed for any considerable time the advance of the enemy, should he land on the left flank, below Yorktown, might not only be checked, but such works erected as would prevent a landing altogether, and thus secure both lines, and make the investment of Yorktown by land highly improbable.
I have the satisfaction to state that this has been the result, and that this position, the left flank, to defend which made it necessary for me to ask for re-enforcements of several thousand men five weeks ago, is now considered one of the strongest of my lines, and can, I think, be successfully defended by the troops which are now there, as I reported to you, before the sailing of Burnside's fleet, would be the case in a few days.
You will perceive by this statement that there are no troops in winter quarters at Bethel, which is held only by a strong picket. It has never been occupied at any time but for a few days at a time, being a convenient stopping place for the troops in their operations below it.
I beg leave to report what remains to be done:
First. The lower defenses of James River are exceedingly week, and ought to be strengthened without delay by building another battery at Mulberry Point and placing guns in the embrasures of the battery already prepared at Harden's Bluff, opposite. Harden's Bluff and Mulberry Point should them be made impregnable on the land side, which can easily be done.
Second. The number of guns at Yorktown has not yet reached the minimum stated by the engineers to be necessary for the successful