War of the Rebellion: Serial 001 Page 0383 Chapter IV. CORRESPONDENCE, ETC.-UNION.

Search Civil War Official Records


Washington, April 19, 1861.

Honorable SIMON CAMERON, Secretary of War:

SIR: I inclose the copy of a letter from Captain Hunt, dated Key West, April 11, which you may think advisable to lay before the Secretary of the Navy. I may be permitted to add that the danger is a real one the Captain Hunt specifies, namely, the landing of a considerable body of hostile troops on the shore of that island, out of reach of the guns of Fort Taylor. This the fort and its garrison can in no degree prevent. If landed with heavy artillery this force may reduce the fort by siege, because as yet that part of the structure that is to cover its walls from land batteries has not been built, nor can it be erected so as tu fulfill its object for a year or more.

In the mean time complete security may be assured by small, quickarmed steamers stationed at Key West and cruising in its vicinity, provided other demands of the public service will permit the Navy Department to supply such protection.

I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,


Brevet Brigadier-General.


FORT TAYLOR, KEY WEST, FLA., April 11, 1861.

General J. G. TOTTEN, Chief Engineer, Washington, D. C.:

SIR: It will probably be known ere this time if there is reason to anticipate any active demonstration by the C. S. Army to secure possession of this work. With the probability of such an occurrence will come the duty of defeating or preventing it by anticipatory measures. It is not for me to speculate on this probability, but if it does exist it cannot be amiss for me to ask attention to the defensive problem which would then arise. I shall do this, although perfectly are of your acquaintance with the causae, and strongly hoping that a peaceful possession by the United States of this line of keys may be assured. Supererogation can be no crime in this instance.

If there is any likelihood now of a large demonstration to take this place, measures should at once be taken to prevent the landing of forces and munitions on the part of the key beyond the range of Fort Taylor guns. This landing can be made without difficulty unless something more is done, and thus regular siege can be laid to the fort. This ought to be prevented, as it can most readily by maintaining an excess of naval force. The only good landing places not commanded by our guns are along the east portion of the south beach. You will see the landing even of a siege train there would be quite practicable if left undisturbed. But if two or these naval vessels, steamers being best, of course, are stationed along the south beach at points, steamers being best, of course, are stationed along the souther beach at points near the shore, say one-half mile, there is enough water, and they could cover all this line by their fires, and could also watch for any rendezvous of an attacking force in the vicinity. The same result can be attained by establishing two or three batteries along that shore and having the forces stationed here increased by several hundred men. The landing of men in boats would be quite practicable with such rapidity as to speedily outnumber the permanent garrison of the key, and, indeed, I see nothing to hinder putting several thousand ashore almost before the landing is suspected. This, however, would be made an entirely fruitless operation if our naval strength and