War of the Rebellion: Serial 009 Page 0149 Chapter XX. BATTLE OF ROANOKE ISLAND, N.C.

Search Civil War Official Records

It was unauthorized intermeddling in Captain Lynch to criticise military positions without better information than he had, and it would have been well for the service to have employed his boats as tugs for transports, instead of vainly trying to turn tugs into gunboats to encounter a Burnside fleet of sixty vessels, any one large steamer of which could easily have taken his even boats.

He asserts further that I was selecting points of defense in Currituck which could scarce be reached in row-boats, owing to the shallowness of the river. This statement is wholly untrue and without a shadow of foundation. I selected no place whatever for defense in Currituck except the landings of Pugh and Ashby, on the island, and at the latter the enemy did land under cover of the shot and shell of a heavy steamer, which ran in with her train of transports quite up to the landing. Captain Lynch's fleet afforded not the lest protection to any landing. He was far above them all. He could not have known where my points of defense were except from some idle rumor. My defenses were wholly on the island, and, weak as they were, for want of men, were incomparably beyond any Captain Lynch's fleet could possibly render. While Captain Lynch was so jealous of the reputation of the Navy he should have been a little careful not to assail that of the Army. The truth is that the greatest assault upon the reputation of the Navy was the want of judgment and skill in getting up a tug-boat fleet of seven to meet a Burnside expedition of sixty vessels.

Captain Lynch does not precisely or accurately state the facts correctly when he says, "General Wise refused to allow the volunteers to remain unless the control was assigned to him." This statement applies to all the batteries. It is not exactly correct as to me of them only. The Redstone Battery, on the Tyrrel side, was constructed of two vessels or barges, embanked in the mud of the marshes. There Captain White, of the North Carolina Volunteers, was posted with his company. A midshipman, Mr. Gardner, had been sent to drill the men at the guns of the battery. Captain Lynch chose to call this a floating battery, and claimed to command it as part of the naval armament, and that Midshipman Gardner should command the company of Captain White.

Colonel Shaw issued what I deemed a very proper order in the case. This he and Captain Lynch submitted to me, the latter claiming for the midshipman the entire command of the battery and the men. I declined to subject of the Army to the orders of a midshipman of the Navy, but ordered Captain White, the officer in command, to submit his men to the drill of Midshipman Gardner and to put him in charge of the keys of the magazine. With this Captain Lynch professed to be satisfied. When he threatened to take his drill-officer away unless he could command a captain of infantry and his company, I offered to give the battery up to him wholly, but said I must remove the company of infantry from the battery rather than have a midshipman of the Navy put in command of a captain of the Army,on the land at least. My record of orders and correspondence will sustain this correction of Captain Lynch's statement. There was no controversy about any other battery. Captain Lynch, It seems, called for me to be sent at once from Richmond to Roanoke Island. This, I suppose, accounts for the sudden order which I received from the War Department to repair to the island. I was on duty in Richmond, urging my Legion to be sent; urging for supplies of ammunition and re-enforcements. It was extraordinary meddling with my movements in this instance also for Captain Lynch, of the Navy, to be asking for my orders the War Department.

The truth is, I had just left Captain Lynch in Croatan Sound to go to Norfolk and to Richmond and apprise our superiors of the lamentable deficiency of defenses at the island. I was not more zealous in the mission than Captain Lynch was in urging me to go on to hasten supplies and re-enforcements. He was urgent that I should do so. I had gone down in the large and comfortable tug Powhatan, to the surprise of her owner (Mr. Parks), who hd already bargained to sell her conditionally to the Quartermaster of the Army. Captain Lynch, immediately on her arrival, sent an officer or agent on board of her to take an inventory of everything belonging to her, and he claimed to have purchased her for $12,000, when the Army had purchased her for $10,000. By his own statement he had not bargained, but said he had been so badly treated by Quartermaster Johnson in respect to another steamer (the Kahukee) that he was determined to have the Powhatan whether the bargain by him for her was legally binding or not. The Powhatan was given up to him, and I returned in the little Roanoke to Elizabeth city, and thence by land to Norfolk.

The truth undoubtedly is, that if Captain Lynch had never attempted to make the futile fleet he did make out of the Canal Company's tugs, we cold have had them for the purpose of transportation. The piles could have been brought, perhaps, in sufficient number to obstruct the channels; the wharves could have had timber brought for their construction and repairs,and the transportation of the troops and tools would have been in time. All this was of judgment only on the part of Captain Lynch. A braver,more earnest and active officer is not to be found in either Army or Navy, but he was too vainglorious of the fleet that got the name of the Mosquito