river and remaining in the vicinity of bishop's at night, justify the hazard they thus incur of destruction from torpedoes? Your views and wishes, general, on this question, I should be glad to have, in order that I may communicate them to the Navy Department with my own. The security of Richmond is one of such great moment that I regard it my duty to refer everything involving it, either for counsel or instruction, to those upon whom the weighty responsibility chiefly rests. The personal danger to those on board of an iron-clad that might be sunk by a torpedo is regarded as slight, for the vessel in such a narrow channel would have way enough to reach a shoal or one of the river-banks, and thus give the crew time to escape tot he shore. The hazard, therefore, to life is deemed trifling compared with the loss of the vessel itself.
I have the honor to be, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
JNumbers K MITCHELL,
Flag Officer, Commanding James River Squadron.
[Inclosure Numbers 2.]
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF NORTHERN VIRGINIA,
October 24, 1864.
Captain J. K. MITCHELL,
Flag Officer, Commanding James River Squadron:
CAPTAIN: Your letter of the 23rd instant is received, and in compliance with your request I will give you my views as to the service I deem important to be rendered by the navy in the present posture of affairs. In my opinion the enemy is already as near Richmond as he can be allowed to come with safety, and it is certain that the defense of the city would be easier did our lines extend lower down the rive, and becomes more difficult the farther we are compelled to retire. If the enemy succeeds in throwing a force to the south bank in rear of General Pickett's lines, it will necessitate not only the withdrawal of General P.'s forces, but also the abandonment of Petersburg and its railroad connections, throwing the whole army back to the defenses of Richmond. I should regard this as a great disaster and as seriously endangering the safety of the city. We should not only lose a large section of country, from which our position around Petersburg enables ut to draw supplies, but the enemy would be brought nearer to the only remaining line of railway communication between Richmond and the sough, upon which the whole army, as well as the population of the city would have to depend mainly for support. It would make the tenure of the city depend upon our ability to hold this long line of communication against the largely superior forces of the enemy, and I think would greatly diminish our prospects of successful defense. It is, therefore, in my judgment, a matter of the first moment to prevent such a movement on the part of the enemy, and I do not know what emergency can arise in the future defense of the city, which will more require all the efforts of the army and navy than that which now exists. I fully appreciate the importance of preserving our fleet, and deprecate any unnecessary exposure of it. But you will perceive the magnitude of the service which it is thought you can render, and determine whether it is sufficient to justify the risk. It is true that the enemy might place torpedoes in your rear while the vessels are on guard down the river at night, but if you retire, it is