War of the Rebellion: Serial 069 Page 0178 OPERATIONS IN SE.VA. AND N.C. Chapter XLVIII.

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occupy a strong force of the enemy, while railroads have been cut, and their use temporarily interrupted; third, to collect ample supplies of subsistence, forage, and ammunition. What can be done is, first, to assume the offensive with the object of again cutting railroads, occupy the enemy, and perhaps recalling any troops lately detached to re-enforce Lee, with a chance of capturing Petersburg, and a certainty of being prepared to unite with General Grant in the investment of Richmond, or, second, remain purely on the defensive, sacrifice the water communication by the James River for a time, and spare 20,000 men for transfer to the Army of the Potomac. What in our opinion ought to be done is either, first, to place an officer of military experience and knowledge in command of these two corps, thus making them a unit for field operations, and then assume the offensive; or, second, to withdraw 20,000 men to be used elsewhere. General Butler is a man of rare and great ability, but he has not experience and training to enable him to direct and control movements in battle. A corps gives its commander full occupation on the battle-field, and leaves him no time to make suggestions to the commander-in-chief as to the movements of two corps. General Butler is satisfied with the ability and aid of General William F. Smith. He does not appear to be satisfied with General Gillmore. General Butler evidently desires to retain command in the field. If his desires must be gratified, withdraw Gillmore, place Smith in command of both corps under the supreme command of General Butler; let Smith put Brooks in command of one corps, and Weitzel of the other, unless you can send here better officers. You will thus have a command which will be a unit, and General Butler will probably be guided by Smith, and leave to him the suggestions and practical execution of army movements ordered. Success would be more certain were Smith in command untrammeled, and General Butler remanded to the administrative duties of the department in which he has shown such rare and great ability. We are on our patch, and at Fort Monroe where orders may reach us, if desirable. A deserter to-day from Colquitt's [Georgia] brigade states that it is reported in the enemy's camp that troops have been detached to reenforce Lee. He thinks that only about four brigades remain, but that Beuaregard still commands. Troops at Wilson's Wharf were attacked by Fitz. Lee, and steamer fired into to-day. The attack was repulsed.




Brigadier-General, &c.

GILLMORE'S, May 24, 1864-6.10 a.m.

Major-General BUTLER:

I judge the enemy are yet in front of us in considerable force from last night's reconnaissance.