to you, and that the desire of individuals to purchase should not conflict with the wants of the Government. He did not undeceive me. I did telegraph to you; next day received your authority, and immediately sent my secretary with a note to Mr. Parks, closing, the purchase. Mr. Parks was not in his office, but my note was delivered to his brother, who transacts business for him. In the mean time the Powhatan had left for this island,and I overtook her in the Currituck Canal with Mr. Parks on board. I then told him of my note and claimed the Powhatan. He informed me that Major Johnson, quartermaster at Norfolk, was the one who had offered him $10,000, but that the offer was a conditional one based upon the approval at Richmond of his application for authority to make the purchase. As Mr. Parks had told me that $12,000 was his very lowest price, and the quartermaster's officer, if sanctioned, would not be accepted (supposing Mr. Parks to be truthful), I felt justified (as there was a large force at Hatteras) in taking possession of the Powhatan.
If the enemy is coming this way,and there is every indication that such is his intention, his visit has only been delayed by the inclemency of the weather, and I submit to you whether I would not have been derelict to my duty if under the circumstances I had not availed myself of an auxiliary means of defense. The crisis will soon be over, and desirable as it is to keep the Powhatan until some of the new gunboats are ready, I have no wish to detain her unjustly. I do not think the claim of the Army as good as our own; yet, although we were treated unkindly in the matter of the Kahukee, I feel no disposition to retaliate.
I have the honor to be, your obedient servant,
W. F. LYNCH,
No notice was given to me by the Secretary of War of this letter, but I presume it accounts in part for the order to me of January 22. As soon as I could write, and had time and opportunity, I replied to this letter of Captain Lynch by addressing General Huger a letter of which the following is a copy:
GREAT BRIDGE, NORFOLK COUNTY, VA., February 17, 1862.
Major General B. HUGER, Commanding, &c.:
SIR: IT has been utterly out of my power heretofore to reply to yours of the 3rd instant, inclosing to me a copy of a letter from the Secretary of War, dated January 31 ultimo, addressing to you a copy of a letter from Captain William F. Lynch, which excited, the Secretary says, the deepest solicitude of the President himself. Justice to myself demands that I should put upon the record a reply to this unwarrantable letter of Captain Lynch.
His report of the enemy's force was wholly inaccurate, and he was not timely apprised of the enemy's approach when they came. They were nearly up to the marshes, at the south end of the island, before his fleet were aware of it, as I have every reason to believe. Captain Lynch took his position or between the batteries, instead of keeping a lookout at the marshes or even far below them.
His information, from the first, I found very inaccurate in respect to the waters of the Croatan Sound. His difficulty in the want of men took away forces from the island twice the number of which were wanted there, and he hindered operations of the army materially. He was furnished by Colonel Shaw with more men than ought to have been spared from the infantry, with which or at the batteries they wold have been far more useful than with Captain Lynch's useless and worthless gunboat fleet. The North Carolina Volunteers at the batteries did stand at their guns, and were able to do so much more firmly than did or could Captain Lynch's fleet before the force of the enemy.
His letter was dated January 22, two days after I had sent my first regiment of infantry to Nag's Head. My troops were not upon the sea, but upon the sound beach, where the men could not be shelled from their position by a force much superior to a single gunboat, or to even Captain Lynch's fleet, from the sea. My men were sent there for three principal reasons:
1st. There were no quarters for my men on the island and there were ample quartermaster for them at Nag's Head, and it was a comparatively safe place for ordnance and others stores; whence, indeed, nearly all were saved in the disaster which came, while none were saved on the island.
2nd. It was a necessary position for part of the forces, in order to prevent the enemy from landing on the Roanoke Sound beach and crossing that sound, which they easily could to the island, unless the sound beach was guarded.
3rd. It was the only position which could cover a retreat from the island and from which to construct a floating bridge or ferry of lighters, while it was convenient to re-enforce the island.