If further reconnaissance should show ground to the north of the Charles City road, which commands the ridge on which that road is located, we might send to you at least the two heavy guns which are on traveling carriages, so as to enable you to open fire on the enemy's batteries from a point beyond the effective range of his navy guns, or if a diversion, by engaging the gunboats from the south side of James River, would afford you an opportunity to attack the enemy in his present position, that might be done by sending some of Holmes' batteries to open fire on the first passing vessel at a point below Herring Creek, so as to draw the fleet in that direction. To do this effectually would require powerful batteries, with strong supports.
General Holmes, whom I saw last night at his headquarters below Drewry's, expressed a wish to go down on the south side of James River and open fire on the enemy's encampment. His experience on the Potomac has perhaps led him to underrate gunboats. He has ordered General Martin to join him with two regiments from Kinston, and spoke of drawing one regiment from Wilmington.
The Secretary of War has called for men to fill up the vacancies in the ranks of your army, and every effort will be made to hasten them forward.
The quartermaster-general assures me that all practicable means are employed to repair the railroads, especially the Virginia Central.
My office work fell behind while I was in the field, but no public interest, I hope, was seriously affected.
I will direct Colonel Gorgas to send to you some burning shells, with the hope that you can use them against the enemy's encampments and perhaps his boats, or in the event of night operations they may serve to guide as well as to conceal your advance.
If there should be anything which you think would be more promptly or certainly executed by my personal attention you must not hesitate to ask for it.
Before closing I will renew my caution to you against personal exposure either in battle or reconnaissance. It is a duty to the cause we serve for the sake of which I reiterate the warning. Colonel Custis Lee is much better.
Very respectfully and truly, your friend,
RICHMOND, July 5, 1862.
General R. E. LEE, Commanding:
GENERAL: Since mine to you by your courier I have received yours of this date.
I can realize the impossibility of obtaining exact information of the enemy's movements, especially as to the re-enforcements which he is receiving.
The entire confidence reposed in you would suffice to secure my sanction to your view of the propriety of withdrawing to a better position for your troops, but beyond this it seems important to guard against the possibility of an advance by the fresh troops of the enemy on the south side of James River. He commands the water up to our batteries, and thus necessitates on your part a retrograde movement. Should it become necessary to cross the river, you can be more readily supplied and the troops will have a more healthy location on Cornelius Creek,