Even if your cavalry should cut these communications, they will soon be reopened. But should you occupy the sector less than 90 degrees between the James and the Chickahominy, your right resting on the former and your left on the Horse Pond or Meadow Bridge, your flanks will be pretty safe, your line of advance will be over favorable ground, you will hold the canal, and can, with your cavalry,control the railroad lines south of the James River. Moreover, they say this point is the most favorable for an attack, as the Tredegar Iron Works, the arsenal, the water-works, and all the flouring mills lie on the northwest side of the city, and exposed to a bombardment from that direction. By advancing on this line, you will, when within 10 miles of Richmond, be about equidistant from Fredericksburg, Port Royal, Tappahannock, and West Point. At Ashland, or on the South Anna,the latter will be the most distant as well as the most inaccessible point of supplies. The navigation to White House is said to be difficult and precarious.
If you keep up three points of supply, viz, Port Royal or Tappahannock, by the Rappahannock; White House, or West Point, by the York; and City Point by the James, you will have three lines of communication to guard, which will require a large number of troops and gun-boats. Moreover, three lines seriously affect our water transportation, which is much reduced by keeping so many vessels loaded with ordnance and commissary stores. If consistent with your plan of operations, it would be safer and more economical to keep up only a single line. It is especially inconvenient to keep to many vessels and supplies in the James River. Moreover, many of the commissary stores will be seriously injured by keeping them in vessels. The general impression among the staff officers with whom I have conversed is that the Tappahannock line is preferable to West Point or Port Royal. Our larger transports cannot reach the latter place or White House.
Why not, when Smith's forces have joined you, break up either the York or Rappahannock line and bring out of James River all transports with stores not required there? I think it would simplify the supplying of your army and greatly economize transportation. Is it not safer to have your depot of supplies in your rear toward Washington than on the James or the York? I presume there were good reasons for abandoning the Fredericksburg road at the time you did, but if you should wish to resume that line it can be immediately put in operation. It is completed to Falmouth, and the bridge to Fredericksburg can be restored in a few days. Although a little longer for land transportation than either of the others, it is much shorter and more convenient by water, and with our railroad facilities supplies could be forwarded much more rapidly, and I hardly think a larger force would be required to guard it. I simply make these suggestions for your consideration, but shall make no changes without your orders. I, however, must urge you not to put the Chickahominy between your army and its supplies, nor between you and Richmond. It is a most serious obstacle to be passed by a large army or by its supplies. Moreover,in the summer months, it is exceedingly unhealthy, as is also the James River below Richmond.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
H. W. HALLECK,
Major-General and Chief of Staff.