Hinton's Toll-Gate. He burned 7,000 bushels corn going to rebel army; knows that a rebel brigade or more is to occupy or move through Elizabeth City.
JOHN J. PECK,
HDQRS. DEPT. OF VIRGINIA, SEVENTH ARMY CORPS, Fort Monroe, Va., April 22, 1863.
Actg. Rear-Admiral LEE,
Commanding North Atlantic Blockading Squadron:
ADMIRAL: I received at midnight your letter of yesterday in regard to the battery captured at the mouth of the West Branch of the Nansemond River, inclosing one from Lieutenant Lamson, and cheerfully accept them as an explanation of the withdrawal of the gunboats. I supposed the order to withdraw them was absolute, and the impression was confirmed by your former dispatches, in which you said I "must not rely upon these frail and open ferry-boats and river steamers, which you (I) call gunboats, to keep the rebels from crossing the Upper Nansemond, which is long, narrow, and crooked, a more creek, a natural canal, and unfit for the operations of vessels, now that the enemy is establishing his artillery and rifle-pits in such strength as to command that communication," and for this reason you said you did not see the propriety of continuing them there. From these and other expressions of the same character I supposed their withdrawal was definitely settled, although I had opposed it with all proper earnestness. My two armed steamers are to remain there. I know that there is danger that they will be fired into, injured, perhaps crippled; but this hazard must be incurred to prevent the rebels form crossing. Your will be must be incurred to prevent the rebels from crossing. Your will be exposed to no more danger than mine. The position of the captured battery, though a commanding one, gives us no security against the crossing of the enemy expect at that point. It would have been no obstacle to his crossing 1, 2,3, 4, 5, or 6 miles above, and the troops we must have kept there to hold it would have been much more useful on the right bank of the river as a movable force to oppose him whenever he should have made an attempt to cross. Besides, its occupation would not have removed your objections to the employment of your gunboats in the narrow channel above. What we want is to have two or three gunboats moving up and down the Upper Nansemond for several miles to watch the enemy's movements and to aid in destroying his pontoon bridge if he should attempt to throw one across the river.
I have not time to enter into explanations, but if you will give to Lieutenants Lamson and Cushing (who have displayed so much gallantry) discretionary power, so that they may go up the Upper Nanselantry) discretionary power, so that they may go up the Upper Nansemond when they think it safe, and permit them to act in conjunction with General Getty, who is charged with the defense of the right bank of the river, I feel confident we can defeat the enemy's purpose, and should he establish batteries below your gunboats I have no doubt they will be able to pass them without loss.
I know you will be happy to hear that the fleet above Vicksburg has passed that stronghold, as General Halleck informed me yesterday, without the loss of a single armed vessel, and I really think that your apprehensions in regard to your gunboats should be lessened when you consider that as yet not one of them has been permanently disabled.
I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
JOHN A. DIX,