are not so can be rapidly protected. Directions have been given to drain the magazines thoroughly, and, if necessary, to construct new ones. There are but few guns mounted on the works. A full armament for them would be exceedingly difficult to procure, and the propriety of concentrating so many pieces on a contracted local defense would seem, at least, doubtful. The batteries on the Manchester Hills are very nearly, if not entirely, constructed, and a force has been called out to repair and complete them.
Drewry's Bluff, a most commanding point, where the James River is narrowest, about seven miles below Richmond, has been selected as the best point for a battery, coupled with obstructions. In its immediate vicinity, also, is a strong commanding ridge, on the line of the approach from Petersburg to Richmond. In regard to the line of the Chickahominy, I can as yet make no definite report, although an officer is on duty in its examination. The recent calls for engineers by General Johnston and others have left me but limited professional resources. I have heard, however, that Colonel Talcott, chief of the Virginia engineer corps, examined this line, but did nto think very favorably of it. It may, however, be possible to erect in a reasonable time a series of dams, with properly constructed covering works, which would add greatly to the strength of the Richmond defenses on the north. As soon as the surveys are completed a full report will be promptly made.
The James River defenses, which are rapidly improving, afford already a good protection against wooden fleets, but not against iron-clad vessels. From recent developments it is evident that nothing but the very heaviest ordnance can contend successfully with this latter class. It is to such means we are resorting on the James River. In positions similar to those of Fort Huger, Yorktown, and Mulberry Island Point, the only course left to pursue seems to be to mount the guns on bluffs, where they are not liable to be struck, or in well-constructed casemates, to contend with wooden ships, keeping sand-bags ready filled to protect them against iron-clad vessels. This class is so excessively expensive and confined as to be ill adapted to the transportation of troops in large numbers. The effect, however, of passing our lower batteries by preventing the safe navigation of our rivers above them will probably be to force us at no distant day to rely in great measure on land transportation. A mistaken impression on my part that this report was called for on the termination of the surveys has led to the delay, for which it is the only excuse.
With great respect, your obedient servant,
ALFRED L. RIVES,
Acting Chief Engineer Bureau.
Richmond, March 20, 1862.
GENERAL: The President requests that I should inform you that unofficial reports have reached him of great destruction of property, burning of tents, destruction of ammunition, &c., in the division commanded by General Whiting in the recent retrograde movement of the army, and he desires that you will require of General Whiting a detailed report on the subject.
I am, your obedient servant,
J. P. BENJAMIN,
Acting Secretary of War.