NAVY DEPARTMENT, April 24, 1862.
Hon. E. M. STANTON,
Secretary of War:
SIR: I have the honor to transmit to you a copy of dispatch. No. 214, of Flag-Officer Goldsborough, received this day at this Department. The views, expressed by him in regard to the possession of Norfolk accord so fully with my own that I deem it a duty to communicate them to you. I know not that it is possible, in the existing state of things, to re-enforce General Burnside as proposed, but the captured of Norfolk would, in my opinion, next after New Orleans, be the most decisive blow that could be struck for the suppression of the rebellion.
I also send you an extract from a dispatch of Commander Missroon, of the steamer Wachusett, York River, in relation to the works at Yorktown.
I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
U. S. FLAG-SHIP MINNESOTA, Hampton Roads, April 22, 1862.
Hon. GIDEON WELLES,
Secretary of the Navy:
SIR: Three white men (one of them accompanied by his wife and two children) were picked up last night by the Baltimore. They were in a boat, and had, as they say, escaped from Norfolk.
One of them has been working for a long time past in the Gosport navy-yard. He describes the Merrimac as being off the yard, with a large gang of them working upon her day and night, fitting shutters to all her side ports. She has always had them, he says, to her end ports. He also informs me that four new wooden gunboats have been completed at the Norfolk yard and fifth over in Norfolk, and that all are now ready for service. Furthermore, that at the Norfolk yard they are building rapidly a vessel to be just like the Merrimac in every respect except in size, which is only to be about 1,000 tons; that she is already far advanced toward completion in her wood work, and has even the wood work of her covering or house finished. Neither her engines nor any of her iron plates have yet been put in place. It is expected that she will be ready for use in about a month or so. This, he says, is the only vessel to be plated that the enemy is preparing at Norfolk. Besides the above five gunboats they are now building there four more.
I am perfectly satisfied of the truth of all these statements.
I am, respectfully, your obedient servant,
L. M. GOLDSBOROUGH,
Flag-Officer, Commanding North Atlantic Blockade Squadron.
N. B.-By a late Norfolk paper, which I forward to the Department
to-day, it appears that a fight came off last Friday, near Elizabeth City, between some of General Burnside's men and the enemy, and that the latter were driven half way to Norfolk. The object of the attack on our part was, I know, to destroy the lock of the Dismal Swamp Canal at South Mills, which I have no doubt has been accomplished effectually. With this lock destroyed, and the Currituck link of the