the next afternoon at the place of rendezvous designated by Rear-Admiral Porter. Admiral Porter left with the naval squadron the day previous and as soon as possible after the storm. Fearing lest the enemy might be informed of our movements and guess our destination, I sent the transport fleet up the Potomac as far as Mathias Point, about fifty miles, in the daytime, so timing the sailing that they should arrive there after dark, and then during the night retrace their course and get off the Eastern Shore, near Cape Charles, by daylight. This was cleverly done. The enemy's scouts on the Northern Neck, where, I see by the Richmond papers, they watch the movements of troops on the Potomac, saw the fleet go up but did not see it return, so that when I left it was reported in Norfolk that the fleet had gone up the Potomac. We were exceedingly fortunate in our weather, and lay off New Inlet Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, in every smooth water and pleasant weather. The admiral arrived on Sunday evening from Beaufort, having been detained there from Wednesday night, for reasons presumed to be satisfactory. Sunday night be wind freshened so that it would be impossible to land troops on the outside near Fort Fisher. The admiral was desirous to explode the torpedo-vessel that night at 10 o'clock and attack the next morning with the fleet, although we might not be able to land. I sent General Weitzel with Lieutenant-Colonel Comstock, who agreed with me in opinion that as they navy did not propose to run by the fort into the river, whatever might be them effect of the explosion, it would be useless, unless the troops could be landed, to seize the point, and it would specially be inexpedient to explode the torpedo at that hour, giving eight hours for the enemy to repair damages before the attack even by the fleet was made. The admiral, upon these representations, countermanded his orders, which had been given for the explosion, and we have waited until now for a smooth sea; meantime I have sent my transports into Beaufort to coal and water, as our ten days' supply is nearly exhausted. Last evening I received a telegram from the admiral, by signal saying that the sea was so rough that it would not be possible to land this morning, whereupon I steamed to this port, where I am coating my ship, and shall return this afternoon. All the troops are well and comfortable, in good spirits, and so far without casualty. I am sorry to say the weather does not now look favorable. I take leave to congratulate you upon General Thomas' victory, which is very gratifying. We have no news from General Sherman later than what is brought by the Northern papers. The expedition up the Roanoke has been delayed by torpedoes, but I get news from General Palmer that the torpedoes are being cleaned out and that the movement is still going on.
Very respectfully, yours,
BENJ. F. BUTLER,
HDQRS. DEPT. OF VIRGINIA AND NORTH CAROLINA, ARMY OF THE JAMES, In the Field, December 20, 1864.
Bvt. Major General A. V. KAUTZ,
Commanding Cavalry Division, Army of the James:
GENERAL: The great number of desertions that we are now having from this army makes it necessary to exercise unusual vigilance and precaution to stop it. The major-general commanding directs, therefore, that you instruct your officers and men on outpost and picket