HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF NORTHERN VIRGINIA, December 2, 1862.
General R. E. LEE, Commanding,&.:
GENERAL: In pursuance of your order to that effect, I have finished an examination of the Rappahannock River with reference to positions suitable for forcing a passage from the north side, and have the honor to report as follows:
My special examination of the river commenced just below Spottswood Bar, and extended to a point some 5 miles below Leedstown. Reference is made to the topographical chart of the Coast Survey from Fredericksburg to Port Royal for the positions reported on between these points, and to the preliminary Coast Survey charts for positions below Fort Royal.
About one-half mile above Belvidere there is an old ferry, but this is not protected by any high ground on the north side, nor could gunboats be used advantageously. The banks on both sides are some 40 feet high, and the roads to the ferry cut along their faces.
Nearly 1 mile below Belvidere, at Ms. Sedon's landing, is the position which I consider as probably the best suited for forcing a passage throughout the whole distance examined. At A, as marched in pencilling on the chart,* is the landing, and almost immediately opposite, on the south side of the river, is an old ditch bank, flat, solid, and from 8 to 10 feet in width, crossing a small points of marshy land, 80 yards in width, and forming a practicable road for artillery.
At the foot of the bank at B is a small muddy ditch, 8 feet wide and 2 feet, deep, which is to be crossed, but the ground is wooded at this point, and it could be bridged with the least possible delay. From this point some 200 feet of every light side-hill cutting would be necessary to carry the road to the top of the bank at C, whence the ground is nearly level to the main road. The heights at Snowden are distant considerably less than 1,000 yards from the south bank of the river, which at this point is 200 yards in width, and they have a command of at least 50 feet over the ground on the south side of the extreme range of artillery. At E the ground is some 20 feet lower than at D, and is out of view until the edge of the bank along C D is very nearly approached. Gunboats along the bend at F wound command a considerable portion of the ground in the rear of C D.
At Castle's Ferry the position is also very favorable, the north side still commanding, though not with so great an advantage in height as at Seddon's Landing. The details of this position being already known to you, I think it unnecessary to report them here. These two positions I consider among the most important, naturally, and they would probably be used in conjunction by the enemy.
At Moss Neck there is a possible crossing, but the advantage of ground is on the south side. Width of river here, about 300 yards.
At the Hop Yard, near the point of Buckner's Neck, there is a road and landing on the north bank, and a landing and practicable way for artillery on the south side, bey keeping along the edge of and up the rive for some half mile; but after leaving the river the ground is very heavy for nearly a mile.
At a point nearly opposite Berry Plane there is a road and wharf on the north bank, and a landing and practicable way for artillery on the south side, although the ground is heavy for some one-fourth of a mile. Nearly west, and at a distance of three-fourths of a mile in the rear of