that an opening be made in the James River obstructions at Drewry's Bluff of the passage off the C. S. steamer Richmond.
Colonel W. H. Stevens, chief of construction department of Northern Virginia, in a recent letter to this Bureau, after careful examination and consideration, expresses the opinion that a satisfactory opening for the passage of vessels may be made in ten days. While this opinion as to time seems rather too sanguine, I think it clear, however, that the undertaking is not one necessarily much delay for its realization.
This opening can be so arranged as to be closed on short notice by sinking a vessel at its lower extremity and keeping ready at points higher up rafts for the same purpose. The barrier, however, will be neither so perfect not so safe after as before the completion of the opening. I do not think it advisable to cut a canal through the low grounds on account of the treacherous nature of the soil. Such a canal, by the influence of successive freshets, might enlarge to dangerous dimensions. In conclusion, considering the fact that there are two bars in James River between Drewry's Bluff and City Point over which the Richmond can pass only in time of freshets, and further that her machinery and speed are so defective, I most respectfully but earnestly represent that it will be judicious to make an opening in the James River obstructions only when a second iron-clad is on the eve completion.
I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
J. F. GILMER,
Colonel of Engineers and Chief of Bureau.
The view in relation to the propriety of waiting for an additional ironclad vessel is concurred in.
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF NORTHERN VIRGINIA,
April 21, 1863.
Honorable JAMES A. SEDDON,
Secretary of War, Richmond, Va.:
SIR: I have just received a letter from general Longstreet, dated the 20th instant, stating that the enemy crossed below Hill's Point on the evening of the 19th; attacked and captured Stribling's battery at that point operating against the gunboats., He again express a desire that the Richmond would only show herself in the James River, and thinks that alone would strengthen his left by 10,000 men. I do not know that anything can be done by the Navy and only express his wishes.
I am, with great respect, your obedient servant,
R. E. LEE,
HEADQUARTERS, April 21, 1863.
Major General S. G. FRENCH, Commanding.
GENERAL: The commanding general desires to know what arrangements or dispositions you have made for watching the gunboats or other movements of the enemy on the river. If you have made none he
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