HDQRS. DEPT. OF VIRGINIA, SEVENTH ARMY CORPS,
Fort Monroe, Va., May 5, 1863.
Actg. Rear-Admiral S. P. LEE,
Commanding North Atlantic Blockading Squadron:
ADMIRAL: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 4th instant requesting me to inform you what "military posts or occupations" in my department, require, in my judgment, "naval defense, for what reason, and to what extent."
I have the pleasure of furnishing the desired information:
1st. Fort Monroe, the importance of which as a key to the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries it is unnecessary to state to you. We need no naval defense there beyond what might be furnished in case of emergency by your fleet at Newport News.
2nd. Norfolk. This position was occupied, and I will say also every other position held by me was in the occupation of our forces before I took command of this military department. The especial object in view on the part of the Government in holding Norfolk I suppose to be to deprive the enemy of a means of annoyance. He might build vessels there and send them out at favorable moments to molest us, as he did of former occasions. Two other very essential objects are to keep open our internal line of communication between the departments of Virginia and North Carolina, and to have a naval depot where our numerous steamers on the Lower Chesapeake and its tributaries can be repaired without being sent to Baltimore or Washington on any sudden emergency or in case of any common casualty. I think there should be two gunboats in Norfolk Harbor.
3rd. Suffolk is held to cover Norfolk, insure the inland communication to Albemarle Sound, and to keep the enemy at a distance. We have had two gunboats there, the Stepping Stones, one of yours, and the West End. I have armed the Smith Briggs, and if the Stepping Stones is needed elsewhere her services can be dispensed with.
4th. Yorktown. This post is considered important to give us the control of the Peninsula up to that point, keeping the enemy from coming below it, and commanding the York River in case we need it for the movement of troops. It would be desirable to have two gunboats there, as the occupation of Gloucester, on the other side, follows that of Yorktown.
5th. Williamsburg is occupied as an outpost of Yorktown for the purpose of preventing the enemy from approaching the latter and annoying us with field guns and small-arms of long range and of watching his movements as tightly as possible up the Peninsula. This position is not susceptible of naval defense, and it is only referred to from its relation to Yorktown to give you a complete view of the subject.
6th. I am about to occupy West Point to cut off the enemy's communication with Matthews and Gloucester Counties, and as a position from which a flank movement can be made, in case of emergency, on the enemy's force at Richmond if he should be assailed from the north or south. It is at the confluence of two rivers, and two gunboats are very desirable.
I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
JOHN A. DIX,