diminish the daring of the achievement, and thereupon our plan may not be indispensable to success. Your idea to march Saturday is the correct one. If this weather holds, and we must not lose it, you will be in time exactly. The barometer now promises fair, dry weather. The colder the better. Success attend you is the earnest prayer of yours,
BENJ. F. BUTLER,
Yorktown, VA., February 4, 1864.
Major General B. F. BUTLER:
GENERAL: Accept by grateful and sincere thanks for your letter of to-day, just received by dispatch-boat, and for all your manifold kindness and consideration ever since I happily came a second time under your command. A thousand false impressions have been removed from my mind, and it shall be a business of my life to assist friends in doing what you will not - except by the slow testimony of actions and services - do for yourself, viz, remove similar ones from the minds of others. Respecting a suitable second in command, the matter is too important to be left to me. You should and will decide. I will only remark in that connection that Colonel West and Colonel Duncan command my two infantry brigades, and I have every confidence in both. To-morrow night I shall go with them, map in hand, at Williamsburg, over every detail and every contingency. Colonel Spear is thoroughly instructed and cross-examined by me already. On Saturday morning I shall [take] all the cavalry colonels and cavalry officers of the striking detachment and go over everything. I have some guides, and have dispatched two men, unknown to each other, to night to cut the wire between Meadow Station and Richmond on Saturday night between dark and midnight. Lieutenant-Colonel Perry, of the One hundred and thirty-ninth New York, with 200 infantry, starts at 10 p. m. Friday evening, with a good guide, to get in rear of the New Kent picket at 9 p. m. Saturday evening. At 2 same night we make the attempt to surprise Bottom's Bridge, with the hope of striking Richmond at 5 a. m. following. If the principal cavalry officers are brave, the thing must succeed. I believe I dare not leave the supporting force in position at Bottom's Bridge unless the circumstances of the moment justify my accompanying the cavalry from there. Such is not my present intention. I have weighted it well. In the confusion of the moment, even if I were present, we should have to depend on previously instructed detachment commanders, while if an accident happens to the infantry, and I not there to remedy it, Fortress Monroe and its dependencies are left entirely uncovered and without troops. I ought now to inform you of the provision left for local defense: First. One hundred and fifty effectives of Sixteenth New York Heavy Artillery and one battery of field artillery (two-thirds manned), and five heavy guns in the new citadel (unfinished) at Gloucester Point - a strong place. Second. One hundred of same with fifty provost guard and one-half of a four gun light battery (half manned) at Yorktown, with, say, 200 convalescents and sick, besides teamsters, &c. Captain Brooks, provost-marshal, a good officer, in command. Third. Five hundred and fifty effectives and eight guns in artillery, with one section of first-rate light artillery and eight guns in position at Fort Magruder (a strong place) and its line of redoubts, besides some sick and dismounted cavalry and one or two good officers