have, however, one vulnerable point: If he makes a lodgment on the island, and is able to approach the fort on that side, it must inevitably fall. I have no fears of his doing this so long as the ships remain to prevent it, but they are likely to be taken away, and if they are the consequences may be calamitous.
Captain McKean arrived here the day before yesterday, and immediately ordered the Powhatan and Brooklyn away, and proposed leaving himself in the Niagara. This would leave this place with only the Sabine, Huntsville, and Water Witch to blockade the port and protect the island-a force inadequate. I protested against the measure, and showed him my authority to do so. He consented to remain with the Niagara, but yesterday wrote me that he intended leaving immediately in the Niagara. I assented to it, provided he left all the small steamers. he has ordered the Water Witch to leave in the morning for Havana, but has not informed me as to the Wyandotte, which is not absent at Key West. I inclose copies of the letters between him and me on the subject (A to D).
The force of the rebels is said to be now from 8,000 to 10,000, so that it will easily be seen that he has force enough to occupy the island. If the ships are to be taken away be every commander that accidentally touches here, then a force sufficiently large to hold the island should be sent, but under existing circumstances I think the ships preferable.
On Wednesday morning about 3 o'clock it was reported to me that the dry-dock was moving out. It had been for a long time rumored that she was being fitted out as a water battery, with heavy guns. All preparations were accordingly made. She accordingly-a huge black monster-moved slowly towards Battery Lincoln until within less than a mile, when she stopped broadside to this fort. At daybreak she was seen in this position, but, no hostile demonstration from her or elsewhere being made, we remained quiet. I thought it a good opportunity to free myself from a false position-that of being obliged to act only on the defensive. I therefore wrote a letter to General Bragg (E), and not receiving an answer, having taken the opinions of the older officers of my command, I wrote him a letter marked G. My messenger brought back answers to both, F and H, all of which I here inclose. The next morning we discovered that she had been sunk, and she so remains at this time, and is apparently unoccupied. She lies within less than a mile of Batteries Lincoln and Cameron. General Bragg says here present position is accidental, and I doubt not it is so. He probably intended to move the dock to Pensacola or some other place where she would be safe in case of bombardment, but the wind being strong from the north she either broke loose or the tugs were unable to control her movements, and she was floating directly on our batteries when she was brought to anchor, and he not knowing whether I would consider his explanation as satisfactory would not hazard here loss and that of the steamers which would necessarily be employed in towing here off, and therefore he sunk her.
I have received no dispatches or instructions from Washington since I left.
I am, colonel, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Major, Second Artillery, and Colonel Commanding.
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