The instructions contemplate a fair trail of the large class of gunboats. The Hunchback did not in reaching Blount's Bay until the afternoon of the 5th. On that day I received your instructions to leave the river to the care of the gunboats, and left early the next morning. I do not think a full test of what the gunboats could do with the battery had then been made, but supposed it would be. There were no means of landing troops at Blount's Bay under fire, and it was of no use to collect them unless the troops could get there. It seems not to have been possible up to the time I quit there to get a sufficient force from New Berne to fight the brigade of 4,500 men, which was the least force that could be reasonably deemed to be supporting the Hill's Point Battery.
To recapitulate: I arrived at the forces on the Pamlico River at 3 o'clock on the morning of the 2nd of April. An order had been issued for troops to land at daylight and storm the Hill's Point Battery. I countermanded this order-my greatest service yet rendered to the country in any one act. I ordered an armed reconnaissance, in which I explained every detail of the mode in which it should be conducted in the events that I imagined might occur. It was completed to my satisfaction. I reconnoitered the region carefully myself. I ascertained the nature of it with the most irrefragable accuracy, as well as the position of the enemy, whose force I correctly estimated. I sifted justly the mass of information I obtained on all these subject, and thus saw the situation clearly and positively. The stormy night of the 3rd of April and the day of the 4th I traversed the waters of Pamlico Sound to New Berne and back. ON the 5th of April I received your orders to quit the river with the 2,500 men that were there in my command, excepting one regiment to be sent by the naval force to you, and I accordingly left early on the morning of the 6th of April for New Berne.
And now as to the question of landing. The notes written by you from Washington, such as I saw, cannot be regarded technically as orders. Their style suggested the idea to me what you did not so regard them yourself, as they are not sufficiently coherent with each other or sufficiently definite in themselves, it seems to me, to be considered such. In the paragraph of your letter which I am now considering you said: "I wrote to General Palmer suggesting three ways," &c., and "expressing my preference for the first," &c. You then said: "What effort, if any, was made to carry out my orders as above quoted?" I think from this that you do not always regard them as orders. They are in fact, as you style them yourself, your suggestions and preferences from your point of view at the moment of writing. Undoubtedly you would not consider them orders in the case of failure of anything done in pursuance of them.
In one addressed to General Palmer you say that the first plan was described to be "to land a strong force below (no place being particularized) Hill's Point Battery, take the battery in reverse, march up in rear of Rodman's Point, and join me at the bridge."
In one addressed to me, dated April 2, you say:
The batteries must be taken in succession, to do which it is necessary to land under cover of the gunboats and to assail the battery in its flank or rear at the same time that the gunboats assail it in front. The battery will probably be supported by a brigade, which you must whip. If you have not troops enough send at once to Palmer with orders from me to load any steamer or sail-vessel with troops enough to the business surely-
At this stage I visited General Palmer, who said that he was using all the transportation-
If the gunboats arrive before more troops arrive you can make the attempt to land under their cover.