HEADQUARTERS OF THE ARMY,
Washington, D. C., May 23, 1863.
Honorable E. M. STANTON,
Secretary of War:
SIR: In your letter of to-day, just received, you propose four questions for answer:
1. What provision, in the present condition of the Army of the Potomac and the forces around Alexandria, Baltimore, and Washington, should be made to guard against such raids?
The disposition of the forces in and around Alexandria and Washington is states in my letter of the 18th. I do not think that this disposition can be improved unless the position of the Army of the Potomac, or of its cavalry, be changed. General Heintzelman has been directed to block up the roads of approach by felling trees, and to remove the paroled prisoners, now south of the Potomac, to Annapolis, or to the north side of the river. They cannot fight, and will only be in the way where they are. General Schenck has been directed to concentrate his troops upon fewer points, so that they can be more available against raids.
2. Whether proper precautions have been taken to guard against such raids?
In addition to the disposition above stated General Heintzelman has stopped all passage of the brigades during the night, has barricaded them, and placed at them strong guards with artillery. The planking of Chain Bridge is ordered to be taken up every night. Staff officers are directed to visit the guards, forts, and pickets frequently, to see that all are on the alert.
The guards of the public stores in the city are directed to be held in readiness to act on any threatened point. As an additional precaution, I suggest that all clerks and employes of the Government should be directed to assemble at their several departments, in case of an alarm, to be armed, and replace the guards at the public stores and buildings.
3. What dispositions of our cavalry force should be made under present circumstances?
All available cavalry forces in the Department of Washington are kept on and in front of the outer line of pickets south of the Potomac, scouts being sent out on the roads to feel the enemy and give notice of his movements. I do not think a better disposition can at present be made of these forces.
4. Any other suggestions you deem proper to make in resect to the above-mentioned forces for offense or protection. You will also state what cavalry force now belongs to the Army of the Potomac, where it is, and on what duty engaged.
The last return received of the cavalry of the Army of the Potomac is dated April 10. The aggregate was then 22,253, of which 13,398 was reported present for duty. Since then this force has been weakened by an extensive raid against the enemy. Probably not more than 9,000 or 10,000 could nw be taken into the field. When I last saw General Hooker, I understood from him that he intended to station this cavalry near the Orange and Alexandria Railroad, in rear of the Rappahannock, to provide against raids, and protect that line of supplies. I was told by General Stoneman, on the 21st, that only a picket guard had been left there, and that the remainder of the cavalry had been withdrawn to Belle Plain, some 35 or 40 miles from the Rappahannock Station. If so, it could not reach this road without a hard day's march.