reference to the use to be made of sharpshooters and light artillery. I found the position at the mouth of L'Eau-noir a good one and have directed Major Canon, commanding a battalion of sharpshooters now encamped near that point, to construct the necessary rifle-pits without delay. A company of this battalion is stationed 2 miles below L'Eau-noir. The work upon the fortifications at Fort De Russy is progressing. The siege guns are in position at the water battery, and the 9-inch and 32-pounder rifled guns are mounted at the upper work.
I beg leave to make the following suggestions, based upon some experience gained while in command at Evansport and Aquia Creek, on the Potomac, and Drewry's Bluff, on James River. The fire from guns of whatever caliber at vessels in motion is extremely uncertain at distances greater than 200 or 300 yards, especially with inexperienced gunners. The most effective guns should therefore, I think, be placed in the water battery. Where they now are not more than I shot out of 10 would be accurately aimed, even if the gunners could see the enemy's vessel, which they cannot do until the river has risen from 12 to 15 feet above its present stage, whereas, with a rise of 3 or 4 feet, the enemy's most formidable iron-clads can ascend the river to Alexandria.
Until the water in the river has reached almost its maximum height the only really effective guns for the defense of the river cannot be used at all. I therefore recommend that the 9-inch and 32-pounder [rifled] be removed as soon as possible to the water battery, and the two 24-pounder siege guns be placed on the work at Fort De Russy, to defend the position against an assault by land, they being ineffective for any other purpose. In rear of the fort there is a range of hills of superior elevation, say, from 18 to 10 feet, which in the possession of the enemy renders the whole position untenable; in other words, it is its key point. These elevations should at once be crowned by earth-works for infantry and light artillery.
Should the river remain in nearly its present stage for three or four weeks I have some hope that a raft of sufficient powers of resistance will be formed to prevent the ascent of the enemy's vessels. In fact, I place more reliance upon the rafts than upon the guns of Fort De Russy, and I would suggest that Captain Boyd be furnished with 400 or 500 additional negroes and 40 or 50 more ox teams, the latter being indispensable.
It was a serious mistake, I think, in putting the raft beyond the reach of the guns of Fort De Russy, which would, to a very great extent, have protected it against the enemy's working parties for its removal. However, if the piling now placed proves sufficiently strong to sustain the weight of the accumulating timber, and the inhabitants along the banks of the river be instructed and required to use all their hands and teams in throwing trees into the river, the entire space from the piling to Fort De Russy can be filled up with a solid mass of timber impenetrable to gun-boats of any description and defying all efforts for its removal. To effect this, however, infinitely larger means must without delay be placed at the disposal of the engineer in charge of the work.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
J. G. WALKER,