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 had the honor to receive your letter of yesterday, proposing a co-operation of the army and navy forces under your command and mine, "to take Fort Powhatan, Petersburg, and perhaps Richmond," supposing that your gunboats and a few companies can hold the posts of Suffolk and Yorktown. My movable force is comparatively small and entirely inadequate to the great object referred to, nor would it be safe to depend on your gunboats and a few companies to hold Suffolk and Yorktown. Only the river front at Suffolk could be protected by your guns, leaving the other lines, several miles in extent, to be defended by a few companies. The same observation is applicable in a more forcible manner to Yorktown. Neither of these positions, with the large amount of guns and ordnance stores in both, can be safely left without a strong garrison.
I may add in regard to Suffolk that the enemy is in force on the Blackwater; that his abandoned works are very heavy and extensive, showing his designs to be permanent occupation, and that we may except the investment to be renewed as soon as the emergency which has led to his withdrawal shall have passed by.
You will remember that I called your attention in an interview with you several weeks ago to the fact that the enemy were at work at Fort Powhatan, and expressed an earnest desire that some of your gunboats should drive him away before any guns were mounted. My last advises are that he is now occupying it with considerable force. I should be most happy to co-operate with you if I had a sufficient number of disposable men under my control to insure the object, but all the troops I can spare are required for another movement, which has already commenced.
If Fort Powhatan could be reduced I could not be assisted by you in an attack on Petersburg or Richmond, except to cover my supplies to City Point, as the Appomattox is not navigable up to the former city, and from thence to the latter the movement would be made at a distance from the James River, the most important part of which is in possession of the enemy and so obstructed as not to be available for your vessels without great delay. Moreover my advises are that every mile of the country between Petersburg and Richmond is strongly fortified, so much so that a very large force would be necessary to reach Richmond in that direction.
In the movement I have above referred to as commenced I will in another communication ask your aid.
I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
JOHN A. DIX,
UNITED STATES FLAG-SHIP MINNESOTA,
Off Newport News, May 5, 1863-evening.
Major General JOHN A. DIX, U. S. A.,
Commanding Seventh Army Corps, Fortress Monroe, Va.:
GENERAL: I received this evening your communication of this date. I have made Lieutenant-Commander Gillis, of the Commodore Morris, now at Yorktown, acquainted with your object, and instructed him to give you all the assistance in his power.