master, giving the views of your department as to the disposition to be made of the steamers that may have been employed in this district and returned to new York, and in relation to these views I have exertion statements to make to you which may lead you to form an opinion whether they are just or most expedient for the public service. The troops of the district, some twenty-two regiments, are, as you of course know, situated upon islands entirely (except some 600 men at the isolated outpost of Saint Augustine), and they are disturbed along a line of these islands nearly 200 miles in length. Land transportation, as horses, mules, and wagons, your department has not furnished us, and they could have been but of limited use if you had. Our only means of movements therefore for attack or defense is by vessels, and they must be steamers; and with, as has been fully believed, some 60,000 men in front of us, between Savannah and Charleston, that can be concentrated by railway in five or six hours at any point in front of our 13,000 men here, this would seem to make it necessary that we have transportation always for one-half of that force at least.
Now, I might even pass over whatever claims the nearly 25,000 men of the Army and Navy here may have to some provision for the sending of their mails to them, and the importance that Government orders should duly reach them, and for which I find that one steamer only besides the Atlantic could furnish us with weekly line (the vessels being otherwise loaded with supplies that will be constantly needed). These Government dispatches, it should be observed, are at times of the utmost importance, when our enemy in front have telegraphic communication to all their main armies, learning their victories or defeats days and even weeks before we do, by which the reasons for early opportune movements are entirely with them. Yet even this small boon of this weekly mail has been denied this department, mails having at several different times reached here only at intervals of three to four weeks, in one case having accumulated to the number, as the postmaster states, of over 83,000 letters, and since my arrival to between 60,000 to 70,000 at once, the steamer Atlantic appearing to be allowed to run here only because it is the only port she can enter (except to fort Monroe) on this whole coast.
I might pass over all this, but when the safety of the army is compromised and its efficiency destroyed by such decisions as are in your letter, as I doubt not by your not understanding fully the case, it becomes my duty to inform you of the facts, and to remonstrate against such action. About the first of this month I submitted a plan of an attack upon Charleston with such troops as could be spared from any division alone (as it appeared that we had no hope of re-enforcements). This was to take over one-half the disposable force to Edisto, as could have been done in two days with the steamers then here or confidently relied upon to come, and them to start with the balance all afloat at once, and in one day, with a bound as it were, join the others and spring upon the island adjacent to and this side of Charleston Harbor. It was perhaps the most daring project for so many troops that has been proposed in the war, and General Hunter could not feel that we were strong enough for it to be safe at that time.
Information since received has convinced him of its feasibility, and I have now been endeavoring to execute it since the 16th instant, but am almost powerless not to execute it with the means at hand, for the successive steamers sent to New York since then are all retained or do not return. The McClellan, Ben De Ford, Boston, also the Cahawba, and at times the Oriental, constituting more than two-thirds of our safe outside