in the river. A reconnaissance was made with 8,000 men, under Fitz John Porter, this morning, extending to Big Bethel, which was occupied by about 1,500 rebels, who fled on the appearance of our forces without any fight. Our troops now occupy the place. I shall
communicate fully to-morrow morning by telegraph.
P. H. WATSON,
Assistant Secretary of War.
HEADQUARTERS, FORT MONROE, VA.,
March 27, 1862.
Honorable E. M STANTON,
Secretary of War:
Brigadier-General Porter this day made a reconnaissance as far as Big Bethel, and, as I anticipated, found nothing but a picket to contend with, which retreated after a few shots in the direction of Yorktown. We have a variety of rumors of a large force at Norfolk and between James River and Yorktown. I think it more than probable that 30,000 may be at Norfolk, and between James River and Yorktown possibly greater force.
JOHN E. WOOL,
HAMPTON, March 27, 1862-8 p. m.
(Received March 28, 10.30 a. m.)
At 5.15 this afternoon General Smith was holding the left bank of Watts' Creek. His men have crossed at the mouth of the creek, and find no batteries there. He is informed that there is a strong force of the enemy at Young's Mill, 4 miles distant. He will return in the morning.
S. P. HEINTZELMAN,
HAMPTON, VA., March 27, 1862.
(Received March 28, 10.40 a. m.)
The troops have been to Great Bethel, and only found a cavalry picket, and a short distance beyond about 200 cavalry, who retired.
No news has been received of General Smith's division, which took a road farther to the left, but it is not probable they met any of the enemy. The troops are returning. The earthworks are not formidable.
S. P. HEINTZELMAN,
Washington, D. C., March 27, 1862.
Major General JOHN E. WOOL,
Commanding at Fort Monroe:
GENERAL: Allow me to introduce to you Cornelius Vanderbilt, esq., of New York, and commend him to your confidence and kind attention.
On Saturday last you were informed by telegraph from this Depart