NEAR NORFOLK, VA., March 5, 1862.
SIR: The inclosed report of Colonel H. M. Shaw [Numbers 25] was lately received, and as soon as copied is forwarded. I beg leave to comment upon all the reports so far only as is necessary for explanation and correction.
The first re-enforcements sent by me on the 7th were ten companies, numbering about 450 men. They landed on the north end of the island by beaching the barges and wading the men ashore. They did not stop to take their baggage out of the barges.
My artillery of the Legion not having reached me, owing to the interruption of my orders to Colonel Henningsen by General Huger, I sent to Colonel Shaw the two best artillery officers I had at Nag's Head, Captain Schermerhorn and Lieutenant Kinney, who, notwithstanding the modest disclaimer by the former of "any particular knowledge on the subject" of artillery drill, worked their guns in battle with skill, courage, and great effect.
Colonel Shaw says: "Among these (the prisoners) are the battalions of Lieutenant-Colonel Green and Major Fry, who reached the island too late to participate in the battle." I regret to be obliged to correct this part of Colonel Shaw's report. Both battalions reached Roanoke Island in ample time to have participated for hours in the battle. Colonel Green did not report to me at Nag's Head, but had orders to go, as he did directly to the island. Had he obeyed my first order to move from Wilmington he would have been at the island more than a week before the battle. Had he not stopped his command on the 7th to go and return 20 miles and back before advancing, he would have been at the island before 7 o'clock on the 8th, and after reaching the island, about 9 o'clock, I think he could have reached the battle ground by 10 or 11 a.m.. at furthest, if he had not stopped for several hours at the north end of the island to unload his baggage before advancing. He did not reach the island too late, but advanced too late to participate in the battle.
Major Fry, with his battalion, was sent over very early in the morning of the 8th, and reached the island, I am confident, by 8 or 8.30 o'clock. Instead of beaching his barges and wading to the land, as Lieutenant-Colonel Anderson did, he waited several hours, certainly more than two hours, for lighters and boats to land his men, and thus failed to get into action.
Most of the men who were missing escaped, and were of the Eighth and Thirty-first North Carolina Regiments, chiefly of the latter,and they escaped early in the evening of the 8th.
Colonel J. V. Jordan did not obey his orders to fight the enemy at the water's edge and to repel their landing, if possible, and his excuse is not satisfactory, except so far as that he had no teams for his artillery pieces, and he was ordered to save them. In his whole regiment there were but 2 (privates) killed and none wounded. The 70 who were missing escaped to me at Nag's Head and Currituck Bridge, and were forwarded by my orders to Norfolk.
Lieutenant-Colonel Anderson's report is confused and inaccurate in that part in which he says: "I immediately deployed Captain Wise's company (A, Forty-sixth Regiment); Captain Coles' company (Forty-sixth Regiment); and Lieutenant Hazlett's company (A, Fifty-ninth Regiment), on our left, in the swamp." What he should have said is: I immediately deployed Captain Wise's company (A, Forty-sixth Regiment); Captain Coles' company (Forty-sixth Regiment), to our left, in the marsh, and Lieutenant Hazlett's company (A, Fifty-ninth Regiment), on our right, in the swamp, &c.