that I am forced to extend my lines to watch all, and the result of my personal observations is contained in an order made last night, which is now being carried into effect. I found the enemy watching with cavalry an easy ford at Messinger's house. The family consisting of many women, whose husbands and brothers. Were evidently serving an easy women, whose husbands and brothers were evidently serving an easy purpose of keeping up communications, so I moved them all by force, leaving a fine house filled with elegant furniture and costly paintings to the chances of war. Also the family of Hill, with other war widowed, at a place on the Birdsong road, is removed to a harmless place within our lines. These may appeal to the tender heart of our commanding general, but he will not reverse my decision when he knows a family information than the most expert spies. Our volunteer pickets and patrols reveal names and facts in their innocence which, if repeated by these women, give the hey to our points.
As a general thing, the valley of Big Black River above the bridge has a wide fertile valley on this side, the hill coming down rather abrupt from the other. The ground slopes easily and gradually from the ridge, marked on Wilson's map from Oak Ridge, Neily's, McCall's Dixon's and Tiffintown. Innumerable roads and cross-roads intersect the country, which cannot be obstructed, but which running on narrow ridges, which cannot be obstructed, but which running on narrow ridges, with narrow corn-fields, admit of easy defense, it is only by coming to a common spur, that a comparatively small force can hold in check a large one.
If the enemy crosses at one point, he must take some days to get over his men and materiel, and then would have to feel his way, as he knows full well that many of them have been made impassable to his wagons and artillery. This will give us time to fall on him or await his attack. Should he cross at several points, our tactics would be to hold small forces in obstruction at the several points named in my order, and a heavy force fall on one or other of his detachments. If the enemy forces us back, Dixon's will be the grand battle-field, or somewhere on Clear Creek.
I thing, unless General Grant thinks my service more useful elsewhere, I had better remain, as naturally all look to me for orders. Please ask the general to read the inclosed order* carefully, and if any part is open to objection, to state it, that I may modify in time. I sent 800 cavalry, under Colonel Bussey,, up the Ridge road toward Mechanicsville, last night, to sweep back by the lower Benton road. They went to Post Oak Ridge, and have not yet reported.
Yesterday our pickets skirmished a little at Messinger's. I was there, and did not see more than 15 or 20 men, on horseback, as curious to watch us as we them. One man, near Hill
's, was shot through the head by a scamp from the bushes, who could not be found. Au usual, my cavalry are not bold, but the infantry go in without any hesitation.
Not a sound, syllable or sign to indicate a purpose of crossing Big Black River toward us, but I still enjoin on all that our enemy is too wary to give us notice a minute too soon. Every possible motive exists supposition rather then the mere sings of movements which are known only to Johnston, and will not be reveled, even to his own troops, till the last moment.
In order that you understand any future communication, mark
*See General Orders, number 49, June 29, part III, p. 449.