the squadron without a transport, tender, dispatch, mail, or picket boat, save one tug. When on the 14th of April you telegraphed me that three of the improvised gunboats were disabled, and asked for more, I obtained temporarily and sent to the Nansemond four tugs, half the Potomac steam flotilla.
This recital shows what earnest efforts were made to relieve you. It must be very apparent to every candid and intelligent professional mind that had General Longstreet really intended to force a crossing of the Upper Nansemond with the reputed means at his command these few light pieces, mostly field pieces, on the open decks of a few merchant vessels could not have prevented his doing so there. The same number of field pieces would have made a better resistance behind earthworks ashore than on frail little steamers afloat. Hence in my instructions of the 13th ultimo, sent to Lieutenants Cushing and Lamson that day and night, these views were expressed by me to be communicated to you. Your theory therefore that this conviction was the result of the rough handling the boats received in fighting the enemy's earthworks on the 14th falls to the ground. It was my manifest duty to let you know that the Navy had not the means to make the military defense expected of it. Had I undertaken the defense imposed without a word of warning as tot he sufficiency of the naval means as a substitute for military defense to protect your rear from a real attempt by the enemy to cross the Nansemond Creek, the failure that must have ensued, so disastrous to the army and nation, would have been charged upon the Navy. I did send Fleet Captain Crosby to Suffolk on the 19th to withdraw the boats if practicable from the Upper Nansemond.
The situation was this: You had been largely re-enforced, and had a gallant army, 22,000 strong, at Suffolk. You had just erected earthworks and rifle-pits along the right bank of the Nansemond suitable to its defense. The enemy had made no attempt to cross Nansemond Creek, the blockade of which he had established. His earthwork at West Branch, which commanded the bar at the mouth of Nansemond Creek, had cut off the communications of the gunboats whilst yours were open; had thoroughly disabled one and seriously damaged three other boats, besides killing and wounding a large proportion of their small crews. The enemy's rifle-pits and artillery on the left flank were a serious annoyance to the boats but did not seem to threaten the safety of the post. Your detachments had twice failed to support Lieutenant Lamson and capture this battery and raise the blockade (which was afterwards so easily done), and our transports and tenders were sustaining in an unequal and unnecessary contest with the enemy's earthworks much damage. Nevertheless, when you that day (the 19th) by telegraph desired the retention of the gunboats in the Upper Nansemond I promptly replied by telegraph and directed Lieutenant Lamson through you to remain with the boats. You most unfairly omit this from your statement of the case and go on to charge me with having withdrawn the gunboats, when the fact is I gave no such orders to do so after the one I just revoked at your instance and through you.
On the 20th your ordered this earthwork, which our troops had held under the cross-fire of the gunboats and had greatly strengthened, to be abandoned. Lieutenant Lamson reported to me that this evacuation, earnestly opposed by him, obliged him to withdraw the boats from the Upper to the Lower Nansemond from just above to just below the bar, under West Branch Battery and commanded by it a distance of half or three-quarters of a mile. Thus your orders and not mine occasioned the withdrawal of the gunboats. In your communication of the 21st you admit your ability to hold the Nansemond without the boats.