On the same day (January 2) Major Williamson, under orders from Colonel Shaw, in command of Roanoke Island, called on me and showed to me several requisitions of nearly all kinds of supplies for the defense of the island, which had been largely curtailed by General Huger. I immediately (the same day) addressed to General Huger the letter of which the following is a copy:
NORFOLK, VA., January 2, 1862.
Major General B. HUGER:
SIR: I return the inclosed papers, which found me this morning in this city, on my way to make reconnaissance of Roanoke Island and other places in my command. They show the sad condition of that post, which I regard as the very key of the rear defenses of Norfolk and the navy-yard. Norfolk and the navy-yard may well then supply its deficiencies, in order to save themselves or their connection with Richmond and the South.
I beg, then that you, sir, will not scale the requisition of Colonel Shaw so low as was shown to me this morning by Major Williamson. I have already attended to the two 12-pounder howitzers. They were navy boat howitzers, loaned by Captain Lynch to Colonel Wright; were returned by the latter to the navy-yard, and I am allowed by the authorities of the yard, with the consent of Captain Lynch, to take one of them, while that officer takes the other.
The authorities of the yard have also consented for me to have two 12-pounder iron guns. These pieces need boats and carriages. I beg that I may have assigned to my command at least four boats, of at least fourteen or sixteen oars each, with howitzers, or guns, fitted for both land and water service. As to the batteries. I will have them surveyed and reported upon immediately.
My Legion is ordered to move as early as practicable to Norfolk on their way to join my command, and some of its officers are good artillerists. In the mean time I ask that a competent officer to command batteries may be temporarily assigned to Roanoke Island, in conformity to Colonel Shaw's request.
I request that a commissary and quartermaster - both - be appointed at once for Roanoke Island, to act until my brigade quartermaster and commissary can arrive and report for duty, and that provisions and all supplies be sent directly from Norfolk to the island, and not by way of Elizabeth City. Thirty days' provisions for 2,500 men, at least, ought to be stored on the island at once.
One pile-driver, I am told, was started yesterday for Roanoke Island, and I have ventured to ask the Secretary of War for three more.
I beg that you will order whatever you can to forward the work of obstructing Croatan and Roanoke Channels.
If the captain of the steamer Wilson is not discharged by the owner, when I get to the island I will discharge him myself, and put in his place a substitute.
Any number of rifled cannon required may be got at the navy-yard. I ask to be allowed to have four at least.
I repeat the request, urgently, for a far more ample supply of ammunition.
With the highest respect,
HENRY A. WISE,
On the same day, January 2, General Huger, through Lieutenant Talcott, Acting Chief of Engineers, furnished me with the appended chart of Roanoke Island and its defenses (marked I), which chart I found afterwards to be wholly inaccurate and incomplete.* It was not made by the officer himself, but copied, in part probably, from the Coast Survey, not laying down the marshes correctly, nor the islands of marshes at the south end of Roanoke Island at all.
I proceeded immediately to Roanoke Island, stopping on the way to examine the narrows at Knott's and Crow Islands, and the temporary works constructed at Currituck Canal Bridge. There I found four heavy 32-pounders placed in battery out of range of either end of the canal, one sweeping down the canal toward North River and three covering the road leading up from Powell's Point. The battery and position of the guns were alike futile. They were mounted on navy carriages, were not manned or guarded, and could easily be flanked or enfiladed on either hand.