from the Blackwater, with 15,000 men. No artificial defenses were found nor had plan been prepared. Situated at the head of the Nansemond River, with the railways to Petersburg Weldon, Suffolk in the key to all the approaches to the mouth of the James River on the north of the Dismal Swamp. Regarding the James as second only in importance to the Mississippi for the Confederates and believing that sooner or later they would withdraw their armies from the barren wastes of Northern Virginia to the line of the James and attempt the recovery of Portsmouth and Norfolk as ports for their iron-clads and contraband trade, I prepared a system, and on the 25th commenced Fort Dix. From that time until the present I spared no pains for placing the line of the river and swamp in a state of defense. My labors alarmed the authorities at Richmond, who believed I was preparing a base for a grand movement upon the rebel capital, and the whole of the Blackwater was fortified, as well as Cypress Swamp and Birchen and Chipoak Rivers.
This line rests upon the James near Fort Powhatan.
About February 26 Lieutenant-General Longstreet was detached from Lee's army and placed in command of the Department of Virginia, with headquarters at Petersburg. Of his corps, 15,000 were on the Blackwater and 15,000 between petersburg and the river, near the railway. This distribution enabled him to concentrate it twenty four hours within a few miles of Suffolk and looked threatening. Report were circulated and letters written to the effect that Longstreet was in South Carolina and Tennessee with all his fore with the view of throwing me off my guard.
My information was reliable, and I fully advised the department of the presence of this force, and on March 14 Getty's division (Ninth Corps) reported for duty. Early in April deserters reported troops moving to the Blackwater, that many bridges were being constructed, and that a pontoon train had arrived from Petersburg.
On the 6th I was advised that General Foster was in great need of troops and asked to send him 3,000. I replied that no soldiers ought to leave the department, but I would spare that number provided they could be supplied at short notice.
On the 10th, at 4.30 p. m., as the troops train was leaving, I was informed of the contents of a captured mail by General Viele to the effect that General Longstreet would attack me at once with from 40,000 to 60,000; that he had maps, plans, and a statement of my force, and that General Hill would co-operate.
On the 11th Hood's division followed up my cavalry, returning from Blackwater on the South Quay road, and about 4 p. m. captured, without a shot, the cavalry outposts. Others followed on other roads and a surprise in open day was attempted. The signal officers, under Captain Tamblyn, rendered most signal service. Lieutenant thayer held his station for a long time in spite of the riflemen about him.
On the 12th, about noon, Pickett's division advanced on the Somerton and Jenkins' on the Edenton road, and a large column on the river by the Providence Church road. Much fine skirmishing took place on all these roads, but the pickets were pressed back and the enemy was not checked he came within artillery range. He sustained some loss and feel back a few miles to his line of battle.
On the 13th enemy skirmished with our light troops on all the approaches. On the Somerton, Colonel Foster Handled him very roughly, driving him back and restoring his picket line at sundown. On the river the contest was sharp and long, but the batteries and gunboats held the enemy at bay.