the north or left bank of the mouth of that creek, the general's wish, as I understood it, being to ascertain if there would be any danger that this depot would be shelled or destroyed if this north bank should be even in temporary possession of the enemy, and if it would be expedient to put up any defenses so as to prevent such a probability.
I found this north bank essentially a level plateau, clear of wood for some mile or more in length by half a mile in width along the left bank of the creek, at the height of about 25 feet above the water, but well commanded by the hills on the right bank, some 75 feet higher (or 100 feet above the water), and generally at about a full mile distant. The permanent occupation of this north bank by an enemy would, I think, without doubt be readily prevented by temporary batteries upon those higher hills south, and by gunboats taking the position in reverse from the Potomac River, which undoubtedly could effectually dislodge an enemy before any sufficient protective works could be constructed there. But, at the same time, should an enemy occupy in force his left bank somewhat higher up, without any of our troops being upon that side, I consider it perfectly feasible for the enemy to make a rapid dash in the night to the points opposite (where a stone house now stands that has been used for a hospital), and with, I might almost say, a random fire of shells at that short range of 600 to 800 yards, it might completely destroy in a few hours our depot, wharves, and water craft there.
To prevent this, should we not be able to hold a force well above the mouth of this creek so as to cover this left bank, I would not hesitate to recommend that a small work of two fronts, open to the bank of the creek at the rear, should be thrown up,to inclose a space, say for a garrison of 400 men and an eight-gun field battery, at the site of the house above referred to. Should there be a change contemplated in the disposition of our forces, by which such a raid of the enemy could be supposed possible, I have no doubt a suitable work for such a force, properly defended, would secure this depot against attack except by forces large enough to be intended for the permanent occupation of the position.
An examination of the ground about this house, with some measure meats by pacing and by the prismatic compass, leads me to the belief that a work somewhat as follows would be most expedient: From a point about 100 yards in advance our inland from the house, as a salient, I would run a redan, with sides of about 140 yards in lenght and at an angle of 100 degrees, toward the edge of the high bank of the creek, at points about 120 yards above and below the house; the redan sides as they approach the bank to be broken into half bastions, with faces of 35 or 40 yards and flanks of about 20 yards, which would cover the approach to the salient of the redan, from which salient a partial flanking fire on the faces can be arranged for. This work, with a parapet 8 feet wide by 9 feet high, with infantry banquets and a ditch of 10 or 12 feet in width and 7 feet deep, with earth platforms for field artillery, and the ditches strewn with light brush wood, as well as good abatis outside the ditch, would, I doubt not, be a perfect protection against any such attack as above referred to, and it is respectfully submitted to the general for his consideration.
An outline sketch, to show more distinctly the work proposed, and its position, I have the honor to inclose herewith.*
I am, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
H. W. BENHAM,