This can be easily and satisfactory explained. Admitting, however, for a moment that no satisfactory explanation can be given for the temporary absence of our vessels from the lower bay, this does not in the least degree relieve Lieutenant-Colonel Powell from the charge of culpable neglect of duty. But it can be satisfactory explained why the vessels of the Navy were not in the lower bay at the time of the grounding of the British steamer. They were undergoing important, nay, indispensable, alternations and repairs at the city. The boilers of the steam-ram Baltic were reported by the engineers as unsafe, and were being patched and strengthened for important service. She of course could not be sent below. The steamers Morgan and Ganies were in the hands of numerous mechanics, who were engaged in putting on and bolting iron plates, in order to give more protection to the machinery and boilers of those vessels; and, lastly, the Florida had only left her station off Fort Morgan the morning of the day that the Ann was wrecked. She came to the city to land two officers who had been detached by order of the Navy Department to receive orders others in their places. But had Lieutenant-Colonel Powell sent a dispatch to me on Sunday morning-which he might easily have done, and which by failing to do I insist he is amenable to the charge of neglect of duty-all would have been well, as I should immediately have stopped all work on board our steamers, and would have been at Fort Morgan by 12 m. on Sunday, June 29, and have had the Ann off for the city of Mobile that night.
I beg leave to say, in addition to this grave charge against Lieutenant-Colonel Powell, that in his long report to you of the transactions below he failed even to allude to his suppression of a private telegraph which was made to the consignee, Mr. Bittner, by a gentleman at Fort Morgan. Had that private telegraph been allowed to be communicated to the consignee of the Ann the Navy would have been informed of the grounding of that vessel, and she, together with her valuable cargo, would have been saved to the country. The suppression of the above telegraphic dispatch to Mr. Bittner is quite significant, and I think you will agree, under the circumstances, was altogether unwarrantable and indefensible.
Again, Lieutenant-Colonel Powell, in his labored report to you, says that the guns of Fort Morgan could easily have reached the Ann when she was abandoned to the enemy. In the name, then, of common sense why was she not sunk by Fort Morgan and thus kept from the hands of the rapacious Yankees? Do I characterize this act, or rather omission to act, in too strong language when I say that the commanding officer at Fort Morgan was not only guilty of neglect of duty but also of want of self-possession?
Sir, this is no time for the exhibition of petty jealousy between the two arms of the public service. We are engaged in a glorious struggle for independence, and let it not be said that the Navy is jealous of the Army or the Army of the Navy.
In conclusion, I respectfully ask that Lieutenant-Colonel Powell shall be arraigned before a military tribunal upon the following charges:
1st. Palpable neglect of duty.
2nd. Absence of self-possession at an important crisis.
I am, very respectfully, &c.,
V. M. RANDOLPH,
Brigadier General JOHN H. FORNEY,
Comdg. Land Forces, Alabama and Florida, &c.