that the large fleet of vessels and steamers inside of Hatteras Inlet can pass Roanoke Island at any hour and blockade all the waters of Albemarle and Currituck Sounds, shutting up the Dismal Swamp and Albemarle and Chesapeake Canals, cutting Norfolk an Portsmouth off from supplies, and North Carolina off from trade, and threatening the Seaboard and Roanoke and the Petersburg and Norfolk Railroads.
Roanoke Island is the key of all these defenses, and is wholly unprepared, in every respect, to repulse an enemy as formidable as that inside of Hatteras Inlet. The fleet there is independent of the Burnside expedition. Eight of the ships are steamers and sixteen sailing vessels, unless those masted have steam propellers also. We want everything in the way both of personal and materiel -men, laborers, organization, drill, ammunition, piles, pile-drivers, dredging-machines, barges, boats, steam-tugs, &c. I am here urging and hastening preparations. I appeal to you for aid, and with that view send General C. F. Henningsen, colonel of the Second Regiment of the infantry of my Legion and commander of my corps of artillery, to confer with you in person.
The Burnside expedition and the fleet at Hatteras may threaten Wilmington, it is true, but my opinions is that the enemy's two fleets are ample to endanger both Albemarle and Pamlico Sounds alike, and as the objects of attack upon the rear defenses of Norfolk and Portsmouth are the more important and vital, it is reasonable to suppose that the enemy will pursue the larger game with the larger force, and the lesser is ample to pass and capture all the present defenses of Albemarle Sound.
By circular, under your orders, I am informed that you gave power to call out the militia of certain counties, including those in my command, taking one-third of each regiment either by enlistment or allotment. Will you please say how I may make requisitions? How the men are to be called out and report for duty? And may I suggest, sir, that unwilling men - not volunteering really - are not reliable, and will you permit me and aid me in inducing companies, battalions, or regiments to enlist my Legion for the war and to join the Confederate service under the liberal regulations of the late law of Congress? Permit me also to call your attention to the fact that there are three companies belonging to the regiment lately under Colonel Martin, fragments of the North Carolina regiment captured at Hatteras. Colonel Martin and the prisoners of his regiment are now released from their parole as prisoners and may reform their regiment. I saw Colonel Martin at Elizabeth City lately, and I ask that you will, with his consent, assign him to my command, and assent that his regiment may be incorporated in my Legion.
General; Henningsen will present you with his views of the defense of North Carolina and with other of my views also, and I beg you to believe that, however much I may lack the ability, I will devote to your defense all my energy, faithfulness, and care.
With great respect, sir, I am, your obedient servant,
HENRY A. WISE,
Brigadier-General, Fourth Brigade, Department of Norfolk and North Carolina.
The Secretary of War replied verbally to my urgent appeals for re-enforcements that he had not the men to be spared for my command. I asked for the restoration of my Third Regiment, which had been taken from me, for the reason that they had been raised to defend Western Virginia, and then had been sent to South Carolina. This was not granted. I then urged that General Huger had about 15,000 men in the front of Norfolk, lying idle in camp for eight months, and that a considerable portion of them could be spared for the defense of the rear of Norfolk, and especially as my district supplied Norfolk and his army with nearly or quite all of its corn, pork, and forage; that re-enforcements at Roanoke Island were as absolutely necessary to the defense of Norfolk as forces in its front, and that particular or special posts should not be allowed to monopolize nearly all the men, powder, and supplies. Failing to obtain my any definite reply to this appeal, I then resorted to an attempt to procure the addition to my forces of a few men (about 150) at Norfolk, who had escaped from the Eastern Shore of Virginia, and addressed to the Secretary of War a letter of January 19, of which the following is a copy:
RICHMOND, VA., January 19, 1862.
Hon. J. P. BENJAMIN, Secretary of War:
SIR: The regiment raised for service on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, Accomack, and Northampton Counties, commanded by Colonel Charles Smith, has been dispersed, as you know, by the weakness of its local position and the orders of its commander.