without entangling my handful of men with very superior forces lying in wait. The country is open from the wood to James River, ascending with heavy wood on the right of it all the way. He generally advances a column on the road and one on the beach under the bank, and he occupies the wood in force. A party sent out by me this morning fell in with what was represented to be a large body of skirmishers in this woods, fired upon them, and one of the enemy fell. Our party consisted of five men, who retired to report the result of their observations.
I immediately sent out about 1,000 men, all I had down here, to support the pickets, but the enemy had withdrawn. I presume this will be repeated daily until he either gains ground or keeps my forces from Yorktown and Mulberry Island, with a view of attacking a more vital point. I cannot keep my troops so far down as this without incurring great risk of losing the vital positions in my rear. So, if the enemy persevere, I shall be compelled in a very short time to withdraw the four regiments which are now in front to the second line, viz, from Yorktown and Mulberry Island. Upon the successful defense of this and its water flanks that of the whole Peninsula entirely depends.
I inclose you a communication from Colonel Cabell in relation to Harden's Bluff. I applied more than three months ago to have this work transferred to my department, and sent Colonel Randolph and Mr. St. John, the engineer then in charge of the works of this Peninsula, to Richmond to press this subject upon the consideration of the War Department, but could get no answer. It is too late now probably to effect anything, but I am willing to do what can be done. The battery has been a naval battery, and is now commanded by Captain De Lagnel (late of the Navy, but now temporarily a captain in the Confederate Army). I recommend that the whole be placed under the command of the commanding officer, whoever he may be - at present Colonel Archer - while the guns and the men who serve them should be under the immediate command of Captain De Lagnel, who, however, I believe, is junior to the captains of artillery serving the guns; and, if so, ought to be made a major, as has been done in many similar cases, and as his services at this time cannot be spared.
I recommend that General Colston, who commands that portion of General Huger's department, be ordered to call out forthwith all the negroes, with their axes, spades, &c., for the purpose of executing without delay any work which Captain Rives, in charge of the Engineer Bureau at Richmond, or Captain Clark, the engineer in immediate charge of the work, may require to be done. The decision as respects the rank, relative positions, and responsibilities of the officers at Harden's Bluff I think had better come from yourself or the War Department, as I understand there is some feeling among them on this subject.
Has anything been heard at headquarters of Porter's mortar fleet? I presume that now Yorktown will be the object of attack by the Monitor and that fleet, and I am doing my best to provide against this new danger.
I am, General, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
J. BANKHEAD MAGRUDER,
CURTIS' FARM, March 13, 1862.
Brigadier General LAFAYETTE McLAWS:
SIR: As directed by Major-General Magruder, I proceeded to-day to Harden's Bluff. Seven of the largest guns have been placed en barbette,