May 29th Report of Major General B. F. Butler, U. S. Army, Commanding Department of Virginia

May 29, 1861.

SIR: The expedition to Newport News, of which I spoke in my last, eight miles from this place, landed without opposition. I have caused an intrenched camp to be made there, which, when completed, will be able to hold itself against any force that may be brought against, it, and afford even a better depot from which to advance than Fortress Monroe. The advantages of the News are these: There are two springs of very pure water there; the bluff is a fine, healthy. It has two good, commodious wharves, to which steamers of any drought of water may come up at all stages of the tide; it is as near any point of operation as Fortress Monroe, where we are obliged to lighter all vessels of draught over ten feet, and have but one wharf. The News, upon which I propose to have a water battery of four 8-inch guns, commands the ship channel of James River, and a force there is a perpetual threat to Richmond.

My next point of operation I propose shall be Pig Point, which is exactly opposite the News, commanding Nansemond River. One in command of that battery, which I believe may be easily turned, I can then advance along the Nansemond River and easily take Suffolk, and there either hold or destroy the railroad both between Richmond and Norfolk, and also between Norfolk and the South. With a perfect blockade of Elizabeth River, and taking and holding Suffolk and perhaps York, Norfolk will be so perfectly hemmed in, that starvation will cause the surrender, without risking an attack on the strongly-fortified intrenchments around Norfolk, with great loss and perhaps defeat.

If this plan of operations does not meet the approval of the Lieutenant-General I would be glad of his instructions specifically. If it is desirable to move on Richmond James and York Rives, both thus held, would seem to be the most eligible routes.

I have no co-operation substantially by the Navy, the only vessels hare now being the Cumberland and Harriet Lane, the former too unwieldy to get near shore to use her guns, the other so light in her battery as not to be able to cope with a single battery of the rebels.

I have yet need of surf-boats for sea-coast and river advances, and bed leave to suggest this matter again to you.

This evening the First New York Regiment, three year men, came in on board the State of Georgia. It is in a most shameful state as regards camp equipage, camp kettles, &c.

Another matter needs pressing attention. The bore of a majority of the muskets in my command is smooth, of the issue of ‘48, and I have only 5,000 rounds of buck and ball and no other ammunition to fit this arm. Might I request immediate action upon this vital subject?

I have the honor to be, your obedient servant,

Major-General, Commanding.



The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. Series I, Vol. II. With additions and corrections. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1902.