This Department will be happy to co-operate, so far as it may be able, in adopting such steps as may seem practicable and adequate to secure us against threatening disaster.
I am, very respectfully,
Secretary of the Navy.
HDQRS. TWELFTH CORPS, ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,
September 20, 1863.
Major General A. A. HUMPHREYS,
Chief of Staff, Army of the Potomac:
GENERAL: In reply to your communication of the 18th instant I have the honor to inform you that I have carefully examined the ground from Raccoon Ford down to Stringfellow's Ford. I do not think a crossing could be effected at the former place without great loss of life. At Morton's Ford we might possibly be able to cross, though even then we would labor under great disadvantages. The approaches to this ford are over a low, marshy ground, of about one-quarter of a mile in width on both sides of the river. The positions for artillery at this point are nearly as good on this side of the river as on the other, but the enemy have thrown up some works to protect the ford.
At Stringfellow's Ford the bluffs approach nearer the river on both sides, and I think a crossing could be effected here with less loss of life than at either of the other fords, though I am of the opinion that a bridge should be thrown across in the first place. The enemy have thrown up a work to command this ford also, but I do not think their position is well chosen. After crossing, I should think a fair position might be secured at this point. If a crossing is contemplated, I would suggest that an engineer officer be sent here to examine the ground. From the camp fires and other indications, I am of the opinion that the main body of the enemy opposite us are concentrated near Raccoon Ford, with at least from four to six regiments at Morton's. The force at Stringfellow's is at present quite small, and unless the enemy further strengthen that position, I think it the most feasible to effect a crossing.
A contraband at Dr. Morton's Informed me that Longstreet's corps went to Tennessee some ten days ago, while one at Thornton String fellow's says it has only gone to Louisa County, Va.
I have the honor to inform you that a communication of similar import to this was sent to you by an orderly yesterday, and the above information was based upon my examination at that time.
I am, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
H. W. SLOCUM,
SEPTEMBER 20, 1863-11. 30 a. m.
Commanding Officer Twelfth Corps:
The orderly from your headquarters brought a communication to these headquarters about dark last evening, but not the report respecting Morton's Ford.
A. A. HUMPHREYS,
Major-General, and Chief of Staff.