by merely passing between any of the channels around the islands and heading them off with two or more gunboats. Again, it is perfectly practicable for the few hostile gunboats to lie off of Ship Island, and merely by preventing the landing of stores and material to starve them into capitulation without firing a single gun. Its present condition certainly makes it a temptation to a bold and active enemy where the prize is thirteen guns, serve companies, and the glory and eclat of the achievement.
If, however, our inferior gunboats had Fort Pike on the one hand and the forts proposed upon Dog and Pascagoula Rivers upon the other to act upon as bases, they would always have strong points upon which to retreat, and whence, working by combined movements, the sound might be kept comparatively free from the enemy's gunboats, which alone can operate there, if, indeed, many of these boats could not be captured.
At all events, Ship Island affords no protection to those boats now, their only point of refuge now being behind Fort Pike; but the fort on Ship Island is wholly incapable of resisting a combined land and water attack like that which the enemy threatens. The two detachments of regulars are more than sufficient to man all of the guns and afford the necessary reliefs. The other five companies should be deployed in open order without the fort and behind the line of sand hills, at from 300 to 400 yards from it, where they would be within good supporting distance of the regulars in the fort. Being in open order, they would be less cover, a heavy rifle fire could be opened upon a leading party above or they could form and charge from behind the sand hills, as occasion might require. This would probably be the best plan of resisting an attack from an insignificant force. Should the enemy land 4,000 or 8,000 men beyond the range of the fort guns, however, and thence attack simultaneously with the bombardment of a considerable fleet, with the guns on every ship equal to the two best in the fort and superior to all of the rest, the result of the engagement would not differ materially from that at Cape Hatteras, and would not, in my opinion, last an hour.
In short, I consider the works now on Ship Island totally incapable of formidable defense, and feel confident that they cannot be made so within any reasonable period of time. Furthermore, I am satisfied that, however much they may be strengthen heed, they can still be starved into submission without firing a single shot.
The occupation of the island is object less, as there is no control over any channel nor of the sounds at best. Hence great expense is unnecessarily incurred, besides the risk of the men and material now there in a shameful and humiliating manner, and all without even intimidating the enemy or of being productive of one particle of good in any direction.
Strongly advocating the superiority of land batteries over superior naval attacks, I cannot, nevertheless, without a strong protest, stand by and encourage an impracticable project, which has not a single object of importance to recommend it. Such an impracticability, aimless and object less, is now being projected at Ship Island, and, if prosecuted to the end, I predict for it disgrace, from starvation on the one hand or butchery and capture on the other, in case of any considerable combined attack.
I would, therefore, most seriously and earnestly urge the immediate abandonment of the island. The troops, guns, and important material