HDQRS. FORCES OPERATING OF THE PENINSULA,
Sherman's Farm, Va., December 12, 1862.
Brigadier General HENRY A. WISE:
GENERAL: Your dispatch* of December 10, forwarded from Chaffin's at 5 o'clock, reached me at 1.30 a. m., December 11. Yesterday morning I ordered a commissioned officer to visit the courier stations as far as Crenshaw's, and directed him to notify the couriers as far as that place that I required of them to travel with dispatches at the rate of 8 miles an hour; that in case of failure to do so I would have the delinquents punished, if it could be ascertained who they were. Information reached me yesterday, through an officer who had been down to our pickets, that the negroes below reported that the enemy would come up again yesterday, and would afford an opportunity to all negroes who wished to avail themselves of the chance to return with them. Coming, as the information did, from negroes, I scarcely credited it, but it is a notable fact, I am informed, that heretofore when the negroes have announced their coming they have actually come. I at once ordered the cavalry and infantry to move, directing the latter to occupy a position at Sherman's Mill, and accompanied the cavalry myself on to the Diascund, crossed the Diascund, and proceeded as far as our pickets at James' gate, and returned by the way of Barhamsville. My object was to be near at hand in the event our pickets needed any support, and if nothing else was effected our visit could at least give them confidence. I could hear nothing from the enemy. From what I can learn there is no doubt that they have heard that this post has been re-enforced, and I am inclined to think they will not come up again shortly. After mature reflection, I have abandoned for the present the plan I submitted in my last dispatch of ambuscading the enemy at James' gate. In the first place there is no certainty as to their coming at any particular time, and we might, even if they came up at all, be compelled to lie there for several days and then not have a sight of them. Secondly, as I stated in my communication to you, I think it is not prudent to operate so far down with a mere detachment of infantry and in a country entirely unknown to them. The detachment of cavalry that your ordered to be sent to the upper portion of New Kent returned last night. Mr. Hopkins knew nothing of any deserters in that section, and informed the officer in charge that the information which he had imparted to the department was with reference to conscripts and not deserters. There are no doubt many of them in that locality. My forage-master succeeded in procuring forage at Mr. Selden's, on James River, and I think more can be had there. I think the distance from Hopewell to Crenshaw's too far for a courier to ride, and would recommend that a post be established at Gill & Ladd's shop. Is it your wish that Major Robertson, as the ranking officer of cavalry at this post, shall exercise a command over the whole cavalry force, or must his command be confined to his own cavalry?
We need forms for company morning reports. Froward me a supply if you can conveniently. This cavalry force does not seem to have been much accustomed to returns of any kind. I herewith forward a tri-monthly return of the command. It is the best that I can do with them for the present.
My last dispatch was hurriedly written, and I regret that I should