The line to the left is still essential, as covering our left flank and protecting Yorktown, which is the key of the navigation of the York River.
Regarding the high spirits of our men and their efficiency, it is my belief that in a fair fled we would be able to rout the enemy, and hence I regard the artificial obstacles below Wynn's Mill, created to protect a feeble army, as an obstacle to a strong one and a protection to the enemy.
The country now occupied by the enemy is very favorable for defense.
From Wormley's Creek to Ship Point a strong line of redoubts was built by me at a time when I had, and expected to continue to have, sufficient forces to maintain my advanced line. These redoubts the enemy has strengthened by new works, and I have no doubt that Harwoo'ds and Young's Mills, already strong, have been much strengthened by him. We know that in front of our lines he has also thrown up earthworks, and I have but little doubt that with the cautions policy that distinguishes General McClellan he has fortified himself so as to guard against the contingency of a great disaster. Hence, if he should attack our lines and we should repulse him how can we gather the fruits of our victory when a pursuit of the enemy would, if not obstructed altogether by our defensive line, lead us in a mile or two right against formidable intrenchments protected by artillery?
In my opinion our strength is such that we can abandon the line between the redoubts and Lee's Mill, and, resting our right on Blow's Mill, invite the advance of the enemy.
We could cover the woods in advance of that position with strong pickets so as to prevent the enemy from again fortifying, as he has done on our present line, which I could not prevent on account of my feeble numbers.
If he attempt to drive in our pickets, we can support them and bring on the engagement. Then if we routed him he would be distant from his protecting intrenchments, and we might disorganize him before he reached them or enter with him, besides having in his rear the boggy and difficult stream upon which the mill-dams are constructed.
The foregoing views are submitted simply to meet the theory of a purely defensive policy, which I by no means advocate.
It seems to me that it would be practicable for us by a vigorous attack at daylight to sweep the enemy from our front, which he presses too closely, so that we have scarce breathing space, and in doing this we would capture a large part of the artillery which he has advanced near to us, and if in the attack we should discover that he had become disorganized and panic-struck, we might cautiously, but energetically, press our success to the extent of our ability.
The conclusion that I arrive at is that it is not advisable under the present circumstances to maintain our position on the Warwick line, which was purely a temporary defensive line, and is in my opinion unsuited for aggressive and decisive action, being an obstacle to our advance, not strong enough for defense, and no longer necessary to be held in connection with James River because of the present state of its defenses.
I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
J. BANKHEAD MAGRUDER,
Major-General, Commanding Right Wing, Army of the Peninsula.