RICHMOND, March 7, 1862.
General J. B. MAGRUDER, Yorktown, Va.:
Your dispatch received. The command will cross the river and proceed to its destination as soon as you are in possession of the means of transportation, which it is understood you have.
General Cobb is here. Shall he report to you in person or proceed to Suffolk?
Adjutant and Inspector General.
HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF NORFOLK,
Norfolk, Va., March 8, 1862.
Honorable J. P. BENJAMIN, Secretary of War:
SIR: I received yesterday your letter of the 5th instant. I have written to General Wise, and directed him to send me the report of Colonel Shaw of the capture of Roanoke Island and any others he may have to submit.
As regards "advising you of my plans and purposes and contemplated mode of defense," I have heretofore had to be only prepared for a front attack. I am now threatened both in front and rear, as the enemy can approach me from James River on my front and Albemarle Sound and the Chowan River in the rear. The principal obstacles to the front attack are the batteries. On the direct approach up the Elizabeth River these batteries are strong and, with the obstructions in the channel, sufficient to prevent their passage. Other points are weaker, but the enemy would be compelled to land and march through a wooded country, intersected with creeks and marshes. He can land at different points at the south, but from any point of landing he must march from 30 to 50 miles before reaching any vitally-important point. My plan is to attack him the moment he attempts to advance on any line, and, if possible, to throw on his flanks and cut his line.
I have thought it necessary to hold Sewell's Point. This battery covers the obstructions in the channel opposite to it. While this barrier remains large vessels cannot approach Craney Island. If the enemy is allowed to remove, it, Craney Island could be approached and could be damaged by shells, which can do little injury at Sewell's. I have to keep two regiments and a light battery at Sewell's Point, and a small regiment and some field guns beyond them, to protect them from any landing near Ocean View.
The Third Alabama Regiment and a battery of artillery, which was farther east, toward Lynn Haven Bay, I have withdrawn, and moved across the Elizabeth River. I have kept this regiment on the railroad near Portsmouth ready to proceed to Suffolk or elsewhere as required. Means of transportation for the regiments, wagons, and mules are what I will most require, and I have urged the Quartermaster's Department to provide a sufficient supply as promptly as possible.
Where the move will be must depend upon the enemy, but I see no other plan than to attack him as soon as possible after he attempts to march.
I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,