HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF THE SOUTH,
Hilton Head, Port Royal, S. C., July 10, 1862.
Honorable E. M. STANTON,
Secretary of War, Washington:
SIR: I have the honor of transmitting to you herewith duplicate of a letter addressed to me by Brigadier General Isaac I Stevens, giving particulars of the protest made by the council of war against General Benham's action in ordering the attack upon the enemy's fortifications on James Island.
You will see from it, in a full detail of the conversation which transpired, that all three division commanders-Generals Wright Stevens and Colonel Williams-agreed with me in the opinion which had led me to issuing the order that no such attack should be made, and that all represented the movement as one almost impossible of accomplishment.
"General Benham, however," adds General Stevens, "overruled all our objections, and peremptorily ordered the attack to be made."
I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your most obedient servant,
HEADQUARTERS STEVENS' DIVISION,
Hilton Head, S. C., July 8, 1862.
SIR: I desire to state briefly a few facts in relation to the operations of my division at the battle Secessionville, fought on the 16th of June, in relation to which there is some strange misapprehension; to present some of my own views of relation to that affair, and some particulars of the conference held by General Benham with his general officers on the evening previous to the battle.
1. That conference was held with Generals Wright and Williams and myself. All were unmistakably opposed to the attempt, in the then condition of the enemy's works, to take them by a coup de main, and so unequivocally and unmistakably expressed themselves. When General Wright was called on for this opinion he answered that he would make his reply in the shape of certain interrogatories to me, to which he desired answers.
First interrogatory. Have you impaired the strength of the enemy's works at Secessionville by the firing of your battery?
General Stevens' answer. Not in the least. I have driven the enemy from his guns by my fire and I can do it again, but as soon as the fire ceases he returns. I have not dismounted a gun, and we shall find him in the morning as strong as ever.
Second interrogatory. Do you know of my instance where volunteer troops have successfully stormed works as strong at those which defend the approach to Secessionville?
General Stevens' answer. I know of no such instance.
Third interrogatory. Have you any reason to believe that the result in the present case will be different in its character from what it has invariably been heretofore?
General Stevens' answer. I have no reason to expect a different result. It is simply a bare possibility to take the work.
In this Generals Wright, Williams, and myself concurred.
I then proceeded to state, with all possible emphasis, my objections to his morning attack. I urged that it should be deferred to a much later period in the day; that we should first shake the morale of the