THE SEMINARY, NEAR ALEXANDRIA, VA.,
March 19, 1862.
Major General GEORGE B. McCLELLAN,
Commanding the Army of the Potomac, near Alexandria, Va.:
GENERAL: On the 16th instant I received from General Barnard an order to repair immediately to Fort Monroe. At the same time I received at your headquarters in Washington, from yourself, General McDowell, and General Barnard, verbal instructions for my guidance, providing, among other things, that i should make no reconnaissance in person of the landings on York river, lest the enemy thereby might receive intimations of intended movements.
In obedience to your orders, I have now the honor to make a brief report, premising that I am indebted to Colonel Cram and General Mansfield for almost all the information I obtained. In the presence of Colonel Cram I examined some intelligent negroes, who corroborated information which he had previously received. A pretended deserter from our ranks, sent out by General Wool several months ago, has recently returned, a real deserter from the enemy, with precise information of the rebel works between York and James Rivers. This information is laid down on the maps, three in number, herewith inclosed,* and all furnished by Colonel Cram-two copied in his office, one in the office of Captain Stewart, of the Engineers.
The first landing or landings on York River are on Back River. Pontoon-boats at high water can go well up the northwestern branch, pershaps as far as Big Bethel, but if the enemy is disposed to make an obstinate stand behind this stream, such a movement of pontoons would be perilous, if not impossible. This line of defense would be turned with apparent ease by a movement from Newport News along the direct road which heads the stream in question. On this matter, however, more information is desirable.
The next landing, and the best as a mere landing, is at Ship Point, on Poguosin River-a regular wood landing, with 12 feet of water. Here the enemy have had a strong battery, some ten guns, but it is reported have recently evacuated it-for what reason it is hard to conjecture, unless they intend or did intend to evacuate Yorktown. The road from this landing leads through woods to the hampton and Yorktown roads.
The interior battery at the head of Goose Creek, between that creek and a branch of Back Creek, indicates an apprehension that we may land on the little peninsula, which is nearly closed at that battery, and negroes informed us that pontoon-boats could land on Cheeseman's Creek, a mile or more above Ship Point Battery.
The best landing for our purposes, in the opinion of Commodore Goldsborough and Colonel Cram and others, is the one considered in your office on the 16th instant, namely, the right bank of York River, between Wormley's Creek, about 2 miles from Yorktown, and a little inlet about 3 3/4 miles from Yorktown. So far as we can learn there are no batteries on this part of the river. Gunboat a half mile from the shore or less can protect the landing. The land, elevated some 20 or 30 feet above river, is cultivated, and without natural obstacles some half mile or more back from the river. The little pen;insula between Back Creek. Back Bay, York River, and the little inlet just mentioned will apparently furnish an impregnable position for the landed forces should they be forced back by superior numbers. Pontoon-boats, ac