officers of troops are ambitious to have a showy command. They always reply, when requisitions for working parties are made, that the troops must drill; that they must learn how to handle their muskets and march. This is granted; but it is a very narrow view of the subject. At the same time these troops are putting up the works that are necessary for the defense of this city they are attending the very best school in the land to teach them the duties of engineer soldiers, and acquiring knowledge which is not less important than the A B C of the profession, and which they will all be called upon to practice before we can hope to reduce any of the enemy's strongholds.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
B. S. ALEXANDER,
Lieutenant-Colonel and Aide-de-Camp.
Washington, December 22, 1862.
The within letter is respectfully referred to the commanding general. Since I have reassumed charge of the Defenses of Washington, the history of my efforts to complete the Defenses of Washington on the south of the Potomac has been one continual demand for troops to work upon them, which have either not been furnished or furnished only to be taken away, without notice to me, by the time they got into position and acquired some little readiness in their work. The amount of additional work (not counting new works which have been recommended by the military commission) has been really trifling, though extremely important; but, trifling as it is, it has not been completed. In the mean time, to put the details at work which occasionally come and are always promised, I have been obliged to keep in pay a large force of superintendents, mechanics, teamsters, and teams, consuming the cash means at my disposal without result. It is useless to attempt to do anything, and I must give up the work and discharge the employes, unless the General-in-Chief will furnish a permanent force of troops to work.
The within letter better states what is indispensable.
Between the Potomac and Eastern Branch the troops have been less molested, and some satisfactory progress has been made.
Over the Eastern Branch an important work, commenced, has been for six weeks or more suspended for want of troops.
J. G. BARNARD,
SANDY HOOK, MD., December 21, 1862.
CHIEF SIGNAL OFFICER, Washington:
Rebel cavalry came within 2 miles of Sugar Loaf Mountain, on the night of our arrival there, Thursday last. No troops between this point and Washington. The rebels are supplying themselves and friends with needed comforts, the river not being guarded. A gentleman at Point of Rocks requested that I should state that there was a large supply of groceries, &c., stored in the warehouse at that point, liable at any moment to be seized by the enemy. Also, upon good authority, it is stated that Stuart's rebel cavalry is at and near Leesburg. We have easy communication with Sugar Loaf Mountain. General Kenly, commanding at