HEADQUARTERS IN THE FIELD,
Sight Creek, Va., June 10, 1864.
GENERAL: While we were hurriedly assembling by fragments an army weak in numbers, and wanting the cohesive force of previous organization and association, the enemy, operating from his fortified base at Bermuda Hundred Neck, had destroyed much of the Richmond and Petersburg Railroad, and occupied the main lines of communication from the capital southward, and menaced its river gate (Drewry's Bluff) and south-side land defenses with a formidable army and fleet. In these conditions the possession of our line of communication southward became the main point of contest. To wrest it from the enemy I selected a course which promised the most fertile results, that of capturing or destroying his army in its actual position, after cutting him off from his base of operations; or, failing in this, of robbing him of future power to control or obstruct our communications by driving him before our front and locking him up in his fortified camp at Bermuda Hundred Neck.
Our army was organized into three divisions (right, left, and reserve), under Major-Generals Hoke and Ransom and Brigadier-General Colquitt. The general direction of the roads and adjacent river was north and south, the general alignment of both armies east and west. Our left wing (Ransom) lay behind the trenches on Kingsland Creek, which runs an easterly course, not far in front of Drewry's Bluff. Our right wing (Hoke) occupied the intermediate line of fortifications from Fort Stevens, crossing the turnpike to the railroad. Colquitt's reserve, in rear of Hoke, centered at the turnpike. The cavalry were posted on our flanks and in reserve, and the artillery distributed among the divisions.
A column from Petersburg, under Major-General Whiting, had been directed to proceed to Swift Creek, on the turnpike, over 3 miles from Petersburg and 9 from my lines, and was under orders to advance at daybreak to Port Walthall Junction, 3 miles nearer. The line of the enemy's forces, under Butler, comprising the corps of Gillmore and W. F. Smith (Tenth and Eighteenth), was generally parallel to our intermediate line of works, somewhat curved, concentric, and exterior to our own. They held our own outer line of works, crossing the turnpike half a mile in our front. Their line of breast-works and entrenchments increased in strength with its progress westward and northward; its right and weakest point was in the edge of William Gregory's woods, about half a mile west of James River. The line of hostile breast-works from their right flank continued westwardly, intersecting the turnpike near our outer line of fortifications. Near this point of intersection at Charles Friend's farm was advantageously posted a force of the enemy throughout the day's struggle, and here are said to have been the headquarters of Generals Butler and Smith. Butler's lines thence following partly the course of our outer works, crossed them and ran westwardly through field and woods until after crossing the railroad, when his extreme left inclined to the north.
With the foregoing data I determined upon the following plan: That our left wing, turning and hurled upon Butler's weal right, should with crushing force double it back on its center, thus interposing an easterly barrier between Butler and his base; that our right wing should, simultaneously with its skirmishers, and afterward in force, as soon as the left became fully engaged, advance and occupy the enemy to prevent his re-enforcing his right and thus