War of the Rebellion: Serial 009 Page 0147 Chapter XX. BATTLE OF ROANOKE ISLAND, N.C.

Search Civil War Official Records

CONFEDERATE STATES OF AMERICA, WAR DEPARTMENT, Richmond, Va., January 31, 1862.

Major General B. HUGER, Norfolk, Va.:

SIR: I have the honor of inclosing for your information a copy of a letter from Captain Lynch to the Secretary of the Navy. This letter has excited the deepest solicitude of the President and myself, and you are requested to take the most prompt and energetic measures in your power to remedy the deficiencies in the defenses at Roanoke Island suggested by Captain Lynch, as well as to furnish him men to man his gunboats, even if necessary to detach temporarily some of the soldiers under your command.

Your obedient servant,

J. P. BENJAMIN,

Secretary of War.

CONFEDERATE STATES STEAMER SEA BIRD, Off Roanoke Island, January 22, 1862.

S. R. MALLORY, Secretary of the Navy:

SIR: I have the honor to report that on the 20th instant, with this steamer and the Raleigh, I started on a cruise in Pamlico Sound and for a reconnaissance of Hatteras. Yesterday afternoon we looked into the inlet and there saw a large fleet if steamers and transports. We counted twenty-one of the former all inside the spit; a fog bank concealed those outside. Two larger steamers were outside the bulkhead and one was being lightened over by two schooners. They are evidently prepared for a general movement.

The commanding officer at Middletown, in Hyde County,learned through a deserter that the enemy's force consists of twenty-four gunboats, seven large steamers, and sixteen transports. To meet these I have two old side-wheel steamers and six propellers, the former possessing some speed, the latter slow in their movements, and one of then frequently displacing its shaft; but my greatest difficulty is in the want of men. So great has been the exposure of our crews that a number have been necessarily invalided; consequently the complements are very much reduced, some of them one-half. I have sent to Washington, Plymouth, Edenton, and Elizabeth City for recruits without success, and an earnest appeal to Commodore Forrest brought me only four from Norfolk. To meet the enemy I have not more than a sufficient number of men to fight half the guns.

In a former communication I have informed you of my appeal to Colonel Shaw, commanding the military forces here, for some of the North Volunteers who had been sailors and wished to enlist in the naval and of my limited success. Inclosed I send a letter addressed this day to him, asking for 50 men,and detailing Lieutenant-Commander Parker to personally urge compliance. I request the letters to be placed on file, to be referred to in the event of calamity.

My opinion is t hat the North Carolina Volunteers will not stand to their guns. Men so devoid of energy are incapable of determined and long-continued resistance.

General Wise has sent troops to Nag's Head, upon the sea-beach, where they can be driven from their position by a single gunboat and is selecting points of defense in Currituck which can scarcely be reached in row-boats, owing to the shallowness of the water. Here is the great thoroughfare from Albemarle Sound and its tributaries, and if the enemy obtain lodgments or succeed in passing here he will cut off a very rich country from Norfolk market. His next aim, I presume, will be to obtain possession of the Seaboard and Roanoke Railroad.

Since the preceding page was written I have received a note from Colonel Shaw, wherein he promises to let me have some men temporarily, but declines increasing the garrison at the floating batteries. Those two batteries mounted together seven guns, manned by 70 men; on my last inspection only three and a half guns crews could be mustered. Thirty-two-pounders of 500 weight require 13 men each to work them, and when the sick and casualties are taken into consideration, it will be seen how very inefficiently those batteries are manned.

I mention these things to protect in a very probable event the reputation of the Navy. The Army now has the batteries in charge, as General Wise refused, to allow the volunteers to remain unless the control was assigned to him. Not having any men to send I was constrained to comply, but have placed an officer there to train the men.

Should General Wise be in Richmond you cannot exert your great influence more patriotically than by urging him to come here at once or at least to send some energetic officer of rank to take command.

I have this moment received your communication of the 17th instant. General Huger is misinformed. When the propeller Powhatan was offered to me, Mr. Parks told me that another party had offered him $10,000 for her, but that he would not take less than $12,000. Understanding him to mean a private person, I told him I would telegraph