HEADQUARTERS U. S. FORCES,
Deep Bottom, July 17, 1864.
Colonel J. W. SHAFFER,
Chief of Staff, Dept. of Virginia and North Carolina:
COLONEL: Inclosed herewith please find the report of Captain Bell, Twenty-fourth Massachusetts, whom I sent with a company in the direction of Malvern Hill. I have the honor to submit that in all probability the attack on Malvern Hill would involve the necessity of fighting the greater portion of the troops now in my front and along the New Market road. I would also submit that the distance from New Market to Malvern Hill is shorter and more direct than from the landing on the river, and that the enemy would probably make their attack after we had passed Strawberry Plains, thus being in our rear. This contingency would involve the necessity of leaving the greater part of the force to cover the roads leading from New Market. If the major-general commanding decides to occupy Malvern Hill I would respectfully submit that a strong feint be made from this front indirection of Chaffin's Bluff and New Market, while the gun-boats from Jones' Neck to Culr's Neck shell the country beyond Strawberry Plains and the works on Malvern Hill. I am not advised as to the approached to the hill or the character of the works. A "contraband" reported that they had a fort on Malvern Hill; if so, whether it could be carried by coup de main or not I am unable to say. If we were detained long in front of the works all the hard fighting would be in our rear. If the major-general commanding deems it impracticable to withdraw my command from this point to attempt the movement, I would respectfully report that I think a cavalry force of 100 or 200 men at Cul's Neck would, in my opinion, cause the evacuation of Malvern Hill by operating on Curl's Neck over Strawberry Plains and toward the road leading from New Market to Malvern Hill. In any event they would stop the enemy from harvesting the grain, as is now done by or in charge of small parties of their cavalry. If any cavalry is sent I would respectfully recommend Major Wheelan, First New York Mounted Rifles, two companies of that regiment and his squadron now being with my command. I would respectfully report that in my opinion this position should be held as threatening Richmond and preventing a permanent blockade of the river at this narrow, which the naval officer with whom I have conversed pronounce the most dangerous to navigation. I omitted to say that the country from this point to Malvern Hill is mostly open and cultivated,, affording little or no cover to the movements of troops. All has been quiet along the river since yesterday afternoon.
I am, very respectfully,
R. S. ROSTER,
CAMP TWENTY-FOURTH MASSACHUSETTS VOLUNTEERS,
Deep Bottom, Va., July 17, 1864.
Captain P. A. DAVIS,
Asst. Adjt. General, 3rd Brigadier, 1st Div., 10th Army Corps:
CAPTAIN: I have the honor to submit the following report a reconnaissance made by order of Brigadier General R. S. Foster in the direction of Malvern Hill on the night of the 16th day of July, 1864:
The command consisted of Company C, Twenty-fourth Regiment Massachusetts Volunteers. At dusk proceeded in pontoon boats to