HDQRS. RIGHT WING, ARMY OF THE PENINSULA, Lee's Farm, April 24, 1862.
Major THOMAS G. RHETT,
MAJOR: It has occurred to me that it would not be inappropriate in me to address to you certain reflections upon the present position of our army for the consideration of the general commanding.
Our forces now occupy, in a strictly portion of the Warwick line, with the exception that that portion of the Warwick River intervening between Lee's Mill and Minor's farm, which was originally embraced within our line, has been abandoned as against any serious demonstration of the enemy.
The purposes that induced me to adopt the Warwick line were:
1st. The necessity of locking up the navigation of James and York Rivers by defending a point on each, and hence the vital consequence of connecting my two extreme flanks by a connection as defensible as possible.
2nd. The property of having a line to fall back upon whenever driven by superior forces from the advanced line of Harwood's and Young's Mills, which was my favorite line, and which, with 20,000 men, could have been held, in my opinion, against any force of the enemy howsoever vast it might be.
3rd. The absolute importance of providing a check against any rapid and overwhelming force of the enemy, behind which re-enforcements could be collected and a breathing-spell obtained, during which other means of defense might be devised.
It will be seen that none of these objects contemplated a permanent line except the first, but rather looked to the temporary necessities of a small force in the presence of one vastly superior.
The first reason, which embraced the means of closing against the enemy the James and York Rivers, necessarily contemplates a fixed and permanent purpose, to be maintained at every hazard not involving the loss of the army. Yet this purpose was only the defense of the rivers, and if that object can be achieved by any other means than a continuous line along Warwick River the purpose nevertheless will be fully realized. This is evidently the opinion of the general commanding, because he has directed the abandonment of the lower portion of the line on Warwick River, influenced doubtless in this determination by a belief in the strength and formidable of the works at Mulberry Island Point, sufficient in his belief, with the aid of the Virginia, to maintain itself along and unsupported, except on the water side, by our steamers, against any efforts of the enemy.
Hence the only permanent object originally contemplated by our right line of defense has been considered as realized by reason of the presence of the Virginia at the mouth of James River and the ability of the fortifications on James River therefore to maintain themselves, and thus close the navigation of that important river to the enemy.
The two remaining objects contemplated by me in projecting so long a line of defense were essentially temporary in their nature, and have already been fulfilled and realized in every particular.
My little army has found a temporary refuge behind the Warwick line from the overwhelming numbers of the enemy, and the enemy has been held in check until the general commanding has been able to concentrate here a force which needs no artificial line of defense between it and the enemy. Hence I am unable to discover any reason why the line to the right should be adhered to.