HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,
Camp near Falmouth, Va., December 21, 1862.
Captain WILLIAM STODDARD,
The whole army still complains of want of forage. For God's sake, see that it comes quickly, and have ice boats on the river. See to it in person.
HEADQUARTERS DEFENSES OF WASHINGTON,
Washington, December 21, 1862.
Brigadier General J. G. BARNARD,
Chief of Engineers, Defenses of Washington:
SIR: I think it my duty to inform you that, except at Chain Bridge, we have now no force of enlisted men at work on the fortifications on the other side of the river. We have only a few hired men, and about 100 contrabands-a force entirely inadequater to finish the work which has been projected in any reasonable period. These auxiliary works, consisting of rifle-pits, batteries, bomb-proofs, traverses, &c., are, as you know, absolutely necessary to even a reasonable good defense of the city. Without them the city ought to fall, if attacked by an army three or four times as numerous as the garrison. The character of these additional works has been well studied. We know exactly what ought to be done in order to complete our line of defense, and I am clearly of the opinion that it ought to be done now.
You and I are the only men in the nation that possess precise information on this subject; and if the wants of the service should call us from this city before these works are completed,the city again be threatened, and its safety be placed in the hands of whoever happened to be here in command, without an opportunity to acquire the information which it has taken us year to accumulate, and with only a few days for preparation, it may safely be supposed, without doing violence to any probability, that serious errors would be made in selecting the true mistakes may be made in the haste of throwing up such works as it may then be possible to make. The works that were thrown up on the other side of the river last August, before you resumed command of the defenses of the city, ought to teach us an instructive lesson on this point. We cannot suppose that our enemy would fail to take advantage of such serious blunders in engineering. The work of which I speak, that which is necessary to complete our line of defense on the Virginia side of the river, is not of great magnitude. One thousand laborers, or, say, four regiments, would finish it all in a month, except, perhaps, some of the bomb-proofs, which it might not be possible to complete within that time.
Is it not possible to command such a force at this time and for this purpose? We have asked again and again for working parties to finish this work, but in vain. I now ask again; and I can but believe, if you will place the matter before the General-in-Chief or the Secretary of War, that either of them will direct a brigade of troops to be assigned to this duty, and remain at it until it is completed. A request ought not to be made. Orders should be issued on the subject. Commanding