War of the Rebellion: Serial 014 Page 0435 Chapter XXIII. CORRESPONDENCE, ETC. - CONFEDERATE.

Search Civil War Official Records

that Captain Rives has 15,000 spades, and that it is impossible to buy axes in Richmond, but if a call were made upon the people there I have no doubt they could be obtained by a contribution of one ax by each family.

Please say to the Secretary of War that I need excessively the services of Major St. John and a corps of engineers. Officers know nothing on this subject, and on a line of 15 miles' extent it is impossible to be present myself or that the few engineers I have can be at one-half the points necessary.

I am, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant,


Major-General Commanding.

NORFOLK, April 10, 1862.

General R. E. LEE,

Commanding, &c.:

MY DEAR GENERAL: Your letter of the 7th, concerning the batteries on Nansemond River, was received yesterday. You are perfectly correct; small batteries were put up from time to time, as our limited means permitted, to keep off such gunboats as the enemy then had, and they were sufficient for that purpose, as events have shown. During last summer and fall a half dozen wooden steamers were all we had to meet in shallow waters, and these batteries served to keep them off, and prevented their making a Newport News on this side of the river.

Against the means they then had I was prepared to prevent any landing, but against such forces as they have now collected you are perfectly correct. "These batteries singly are weak against a serious naval attack, and are more or less liable to be taken and destroyed by a sudden night attack (I may add day attack either) by land."

I have been endeavoring for some time past to get obstructions placed off Town Point, and am at work strengthening that point, but I have not yet abandoned any of the batteries. If I do so it invites them to come and occupy that position, and I have no force to drive them out before they fortify themselves there. If it were not for the fear of the Virginia there is nothing to prevent the enemy from occupying any point he pleases west of the Nansemond River, and I could not meet his advance for one or two days with over 1,000 men, and I could only then move against him with troops absolutely necessary to guard the positions they now hold.

To add to my embarrassment the terms of service of many of the regiments expire within the next twenty days. Those that may be reorganized are for the present much disorganized by the process, and I fear I will lose several of the best regiments here, viz, the Third Alabama, Third and Fourth Georgia, First Louisiana, none of whom have yet re-enlisted. If they all leave the enemy may come, and, if in sufficient force, the resistance cannot be great. We have so long a line and so cut up with rivers it is impossible to concentrate our forces rapidly.

All the troops that were sent to Suffolk have been removed (the First South Carolina Regiment which was there was about as strong as the two Virginia regiments now there). The First Brigade (Colston's) is in the Peninsula, and I am weaker now than ever before, without the withdrawal of the regiments above mentioned. When they leave I