Numbers 44. Reports of Flag-Officer George N. Hollins, C. S. Navy.
Tiptonville, Tenn., March 15, 1862.
GENERAL: I deem it proper to communicate with your direct as regards the position of my command in this vicinity. My force consists of six gunboats; two of them are ironed over their engines, which protects them from small-arms and light artillery, but affording little protection against heavy guns; all the others are very vulnerable. I feel that the preservation of these boats are of the last importance to our country, and am therefore unwilling to risk their loss or being crippled by the guns of the land forces of the enemy except in the last extremity.
If the gunboats should pass Numbers 10 I will do the best I can to stop them; in that case I will of course run the risk of loss or capture to keep them back. Nearly all the guns at New Madrid were left behind (as you will have heard from the general commanding) when that place was evacuated; though they were spiked, still my impression is that they could be rendered useful in twenty-four hours, if not less time. Of this you will be a better judge than myself. I think if the gunboats do not or cannot pass Numbers 10 I will fall back below the lowest point that the enemy can fortify below this place, should they attempt it, if we are unable to prevent it. Our gunboats can and have driven the enemy from the banks of the river, but as soon as they cease their fire they return and fire into the transports as they come up and down. This they did at Point Pleasant, and may continue to do down some miles below this place, when they be stopped by the nature of the country.
The Manassas has been ordered back to New Orleans, as you requested, though from some injury from a "snag" I fear she will be detained some days in Memphis to repair.
I am not overburdened with ammunition in any of the gunboats, as you may suppose, and do not wish to throw it away without some return from the enemy for it. My crews are all short. I have been kindly furnished by General McCowan with some from his command. I merely state these to let you see the difficulties under which I am working. Any suggestions from you will meet with all attention, and my co-operation will be hearty and to the extent of my ability.
I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
G. N. HOLLINS,
Flag-Officer, Commanding Naval Forces on the Mississippi.
General G. T. BEAUREGARD,
Commanding Confederate Armies on the Mississippi.
FLAG-SHIP McRAE, March 30, 1862.
GENERAL: Your letter of the 27th instant, asking for information as regards the necessity of evacuating New Madrid, has been received. It was my opinion, from the manner in which the enemy progressed in their work under the fire of the gunboats and Fort Thompson, that in twenty-four hours more Fort Thompson would be cut off from communication with the upper for entirely, and that, if a necessity arose for