HDQRS. OF THE ARMY, ADJT. GEN'S OFFICE,
Washington, April 4, 1863.
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IV. Brigadier General R. B. Ayres, U. S. Volunteers, will report to Major-General Hooker, commanding Army of the Potomac, for assignment to duty.
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By command of Major-General Halleck.
E. D. TOWNSEND,
April 4, 1863.
Major General JOSEPH HOOKER,
Commanding Army of the Potomac:
GENERAL: I am honored with your communication of the 2nd,* touching the strength and position of my troops; also the strength and position of the enemy in my front. As these data may have an important bearing upon your operations, I most cheerfully proceed to give you the desired information:
By the inclosed ma;* you will perceive that a large district is under my command, being, in general terms, all east of the Blackwater and Chowan. Several counties of North Carolina are nominally in General Foster's department, but really dependent upon me for protection. General Viele has a small force at Norfolk. My headquarters are at Suffolk, where I keep nearly the whole force, and from which point I move my columns according to circumstances. The service is hard, and they are kept active when the weather permits. The enemy occupies the Blackwater in force down to the Chowan and probably below Winton.
From the fact that some 4,000 have been several weeks fortifying Fort Powhatan, on the James, I infer that Chipoak and Birchen Rivers, with Cypress Swamp, form the left of their line. (See military map of Southeastern Virginia, from Coast Survey.)
All the fords, passes, and bridges are fortified and guarded. He occupies Surry Court-House, and pickets a belt of 5 or 6 miles on this side of the river. The intermediate country is traversed by both, and is the theater of many collisions.
On the 1st of March, Hood's and Pickett's divisions left Fredericksburg for Petersburg, and General Longstreet assumed command about that time or a few days before. One division started for Charleston, but returned. General Longstreet made a reconnaissance, with General [M.] Jenkins commanding, on the river last week, and returned to Petersburg. My information from numerous sources has been that Longstreet had within 20 or 30 miles of this place 15,000, and 15,000 along the railway this side of Petersburg which he could concentrate in twelve hours, and I was advised from headquarters a few days since that one of our spies had a list of the regiments and the strength, and they amounted to 28,000.
Deserters who left the Blackwater on the 1st, say that General [M. D.] Corse's brigade of Virginia troops arrived at Zuni on the 23rd; also that a large pontoon train came by rail. They state that Hood's division was expected to follow. A large brigade of Mississippians, under General