The possession of York River would also enable the Virginia to venture more successfully against a fleet of iron-clad vessels, because in the narrow points of the river she would have the advantage of forcing the enemy to receive her fire in any position she might choose to take.
But the consequences flowing from her presence in York River would be infinite. She could sally out whenever she wished, without would being submitted to the terrible fire of Fort Monroe. By going down the bay from time to time she could keep the fort itself in a state of semi-blockade, and render it very difficult for McClellan to feed his army.
If she should be enabled to effect the capture of some of the enemy's gunboats now in York River she might subsequently venture with their aid to sail for the North, and the field of her operations there is so vast that I will not venture to speculate upon them. Of course all these suggestions are based upon the theory that in the opinion and belief of her officers she can successfully pass Fort Monroe and engage the enemy's iron-clad vessels now watching her.
If she cannot struggle successfully against these obstacles, then I think the sooner this is know, so as to relieve us from any false reliance upon her capacities, the better it would be for us in the formation of our plans for the future.
In addition, I would state that it is not even necessary for the enemy to have gunboats in the James River to insure his passage over, because, being in possession of our works at Jamestown Island, he could mount his heavy and long-range guns and drive our frail wooden gunboats with their exposed engines away, and under his guns land at Carter's Wharf was, as I have ordered it to be burned.
J. BANKHEAD MAGRUDER,
These suggestions are worthy of consideration, but the position of the Virginia at the mouth of James River until our obstruction is complete adds materially to the defenses of Richmond, besides giving us a chance to move the material from the navy-yard up James River.
G. W. RANDOLPH.
WAR DEPARTMENT, C. S. A., Richmond, Va., May 6, 1862.
WILLIAM PANNILL, Esq.,
Provost-Marshal, Petersburg, Va.:
SIR: You will prepare to destroy the cotton and tobacco, both leaf and manufactured, in and about Petersburg, in case it is necessary to present it from falling into the hands of the enemy. If the tobacco can be destroyed by rolling it into the water, you are authorized to build sheds for its protection, convenient to the river, and to store it there until the time arrives for its destruction. If, however, it can be burned without setting fire to the town you will burn it, and make preparations for doing so at once.
The cotton must be placed where it can be safely burned, and the drayage will be paid by the Government. Suffer no public property