becoming again very bad since the rain of last night. I came down in the conviction that the right flank of my operating forces on James River was secured by the success of the Virginia and would not care for the roads so much, but from all I learn and see here I am the more convinced than over that the enemy will persevere in his designs up James River, and for the following reasons:
It will be greatly to their interest to keep such a ship as the Virginia confined to the Hampton Roads. This can be done if the Monitor, which, as I have learned since moving the troops, draws but 5 feet water, can be sent up James River, supported by an irresistible column, marching up the Peninsula, say 20,000 men, whilst 20,000 would remain to occupy the vicinity of Fort Monroe and Newport News.
Should the Virginia go outside of Fort Monroe and Newport News, the enemy would steam across the lower James River with his 20,000 and cut Norfolk off, whilst the other 20,000, supported by the Monitor, would eventually succeed in pushing their way up to Jamestown.
Should the Virginia remain in the Roads, no troops could be thrown across as far up as she could go, which is but a few miles, but the column below would support the land operations of the column above, and the whole would cross above, say at Jamestown Island or at Mulberry Point. The enemy is re-enforcing by every means in his power therefor his forces at Newport News and Fort Monroe. Two regiments are reported to have arrived yesterday, and the vedettes on the advanced water points report that some thirteen sailing transports were towed up the bay by steamers [tugs probably] yesterday, whilst I saw myself several sailing vessels in tow of steamers going up the day before. I think, therefore, that he is straining every nerve to put a large force on the Peninsula before the Virginia comes out, either to operate on James River, York River, or both, whilst his troops march up.
It seems to me, therefore, that the Virginia, if she cannot get at the Monitor- a conflict which it will be the interest of the country to prevent-ought so to station herself outside Fort Monroe as to intercept all re-enforcements of troops and to cut off further supplies. This course, if it can be pursued at once, might prevent the advance up by land, and would also prevent the crossing of troops in large numbers on the lower James River, as far up at least as the Virginia could go, since, if she could pass Fort Monroe once, she could return again to the Roads, if an attempt were made to cross troops in large numbers. By taking such a position the Virginia would also prevent an expedition of magnitude either up York or Rappahannock Rivers.
I think no time should be lost in sinking insurmountable obstacles in James River to prevent the Monitor from ascending. Nothing but positive physical obstruction will do against such ships. But the river would be worse than useless to this army if the obstructions were made high up, since there could be no means of transportation below such obstructions, the Monitor destroying such means. It is necessary therefore to block up the river at some strategic point, affording to this army the means of safely ascending James River from that point. Jamestown Island alone fulfills these conditions, as far as I know.
Would it not be well, therefore, to sink vessels of all kinds, loaded with stone, at once, for this purpose, across the channel there, and fortify the island and the commanding main-land strongly without delay? The last I am doing with all the means in my power; but for the former the means must come from Richmond. I presume that all the sail vessels, some of the older steamers, and all the canal-boats above Richmond