made to arrest and return all who cannot show some sufficient authority for their absence. In this connection, it may be noted that there are said to be many stragglers from the command of Colonel W. L. Jackson, and that even some of the officers of his regiment have been permitted to remain absent serval months at a time. To what extent this may have existed is not alleged, and it is hoped there may, in fact, be but little foundation for the assertion.
Your attention is also requested to the report that many ablebodied men are employed in the quartermaster's and commissary departments within the limits of your command. General Orders, Numbers 105, currentseries, direct the disposition to be made of such persons; and, as the army greatly needs re-enforcements, it is expected the requirements of the orders will be rigidly enforced.
Very respectfully, &c.,
H. L. CLAY,
August 6, 1863.
Colonel W. H. STEVENS, C. S. Army,
COLONEL: It is the desire of the honorable Secretary of War that immediate steps be taken to construct a suitable work for the defense of the bridge of the Petersburg and Weldon Railroad over the Meherrin River, and I have to request that you will take measures at once, in concert with the commanders of the forces at Weldon and Petersburg, to construct the proposed work. The bridge is one of considerable length, and if destroyed would break the southern connection for a considerable time.
An officer of Engineers must be assigned at once to the duty of locating and building a closed work in proper relations for defending the approaches to the bridge, and of such strength of profile as to resist cavalry and light artillery, and suitable for a garrison of two or three companies. It is understood that labor will be furnished to some extent by the citizens in the neighborhood, and the commanders of troops should be urged to furnish fatigue labor. Can you assign Lieutenant bender, or some officer now in North Carolina or petersburg, to the duty, with proper instructions from yourself? The bridge over the Nottoway River should be guardedalso, and possibly a small work built for its protection. I repeat, the secretary of War desires that pronpt measures be taken to build a defensive work at the bridge over the Meherrin. Home guards, in an emergency, it is belived, could be obtained to defend the bridge when the work shall have been built.
The Secretary of War has decided that the agricultural interests will not admit of a call on the slaves for labor on the fortifications sooner than the 10th of September. He has urged upon General Elzey that details of troops be made from his command for fatigue service, say 500 men daily. These to be employed on the connection between Randolph and Chaffin's Bluff. Please see General Elzey, and urge prompt action.
Your obedient servant,
J. F. GILMER,
Colonel of Engineers, and Chief of Bureau.