HDQRS. DEPT. OF VIRGINIA, SEVENTH ARMY CORPS,
Fort Monroe, Va., May 23, 1863.
GENERAL: In the latter part of September last the town of Suffolk was threatened by the enemy, who had concentrated a large force on the Blackwater. Brigadier-General Ferry, who commanded at Suffolk, made the best practicable arrangements of his troops to meet the enemy's advance, but the place was entirely without intrenchments. It had been occupied from the time enemy evacuated Norfolk, but without any definite purpose, except as an advanced position from which the country east of the Blackwater and Chowan and between the James River and Albemarle Sound might be watched and the land communication be kept up between Norfolk and North Carolina east of the Dismal Swamp.
I suggested last autumn the relinquishment of this position on account of some inherent objections to it, since explained in my letter of May 10th instant, and the occupation of a more defensible line nearer Norfolk. It was decided at that time to hold it, and Major-General Peck, whom I ordered to take command at Suffolk of September 22, and in whose experience, discretion, and military skill I had entire confidence immediately commenced the execution of a system of intrenchments planted by himself, which the physical conformation of the place and the contiguous country necessary rendered very extensive. For six months a portion of the troops under his command were diligently engaged in the construction of these works.
With a view to have them fully occupied and to inure them to more active service I directed him to keep about one-third of his force constantly in motion and to harass the enemy on the Blackwater by all practical means. My directions were carried out with good judgment and with very satisfactory results. Frequent expeditions were made; the enemy was repeatedly attacked. In nearly every renconter the advantage was on our side; prisoners were taken, munitions were captured, and a rocket battery fell into our hands. While engaged in these labors and active movements General Peck, by constant attention, brought his command t an excellent state of discipline.
On April 11 the enemy suddenly advanced with a large force, commanded by Lieutenant-General Longstreet, which had been quietly assembled on the Blackwater, intending to take Suffolk by assault; but finding the place well prepared for defense, after repeated unsuccessful attempts on our lines in all of which he was signally repulsed, he sat down before it and commenced an investment according to the most approved principles of military science. The details of all the operations of the siege, which terminated at the end of twenty-two days by his retreat in the night, are fully given in the report of Major-General Peck, which I have the honor to transmit herewith.
When the leave of absence for a few days on a surgeon's certificate of disability.
On the following day (Sunday, April 12) I received a dispatch informing me of the enemy's presence and I left the same evening, reaching Suffolk on Tuesday morning, the 14th. From this time I was every alternate day at Suffolk and on the Nansemond River, where the gunboats belonging to the blockading squadron of Admiral Lee were engaged with the enemy's batteries, being thus enabled to bear testimony from personal observation to the good of all concerned in resisting the enemy's advance. The large force of the enemy, amount