War of the Rebellion: Serial 026 Page 0775 NORTH CAROLINA AND S. E. VIRGINIA. Chapter XXX.

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vessels running the blockade. In like manner the northeast gales drive the enemy to shelter to the southward of the Cape and clears the new inlet or upper entrance. The river affords great facilities for building gunboats. Two are already there ready for their iron. Their completion ought no to be left to chance, for either of them would compel most extraordinary preparations on the part of the enemy and undoubtedly enable us to hold the port for a great length of time, and time is much with us now. Once in service and there is nothing to prevent the building of a fleet of similar vessels. Along the Sound, in the immediate vicinity of the river, are extensive works producing 3,000 bushels of slat daily. This important supply depends entirely on our holding the port. I mention these considerations as worthy of attention, but subordinate to the great strategic importance of the plan in relation to the progress of the war.

As to its defense and the difficulties of the problem it will be seen be reference to the map that the two entrances, 7 miles apart, separated by Smith's Island, are isolated from mutual support by the river itself. As the works defending them (not, by the way, of strength commensurate with the object) are liable to separate attacks both by sea and land from the northward and southward, the supporting force is liable to be divided. This difficulty would not be so formidable were our means of boat transportation greater, but as we stand it is very much so. The series of swamp lands and bayous which separate Oak Island for a considerable distance from the mainland form an additional and serious obstacle to the relief of Fort Caswell, the work designed to protect the main entrance. The fall of one, though so far apart, will necessarily result in that of the other, and thus, without mutually assisting in the defense of either, the safety of either of these important positions depends on the other. This is owing to the fact that the Cape Fear from 8 to 10 miles from the mouth spreads over extensive shoals, with the channel so far from the land that artillery can scarcely be placed so as effectually to prevent the access to upper river from being cut off, and with it the river communications to the forts. In addition, though the forts command the entrances, which are comparatively narrow, neither of them have any control over the harbor nor the inside anchorages, while we are prevented by want of means from increasing our batteries on the mainland so as to render the harbor unsafe for the enemy after a successful passage of the entrances. The distance of the city is an unfavorable element in the matter-21 mils to Fort fisher and 28 to Fort Caswell, with the three routes, the river and the road by either bank. The roads are extremely heavy, passing through tracts of deep sand. The city, again, though 24 miles from it harbor, is but 6 miles from the sea, and may be attacked from the Sounds by way of Topsail and Swansborough without any attempts on the forts, and this in the present position of the enemy is not unlikely. In event of his success the forts must fall without resistance. In this condition of things the presence of a strong maneuvering force is indispensable and its necessity immediate, no matter how strong we may be able to make the forts or how perfect the arrangements for obstruction; and as both our means and time are limited the supporting army must be in readiness. That granted, though the odds are move favorable to the attack than the defense, the enemy may be afraid to undertake it. I have mentioned the difficulties of the defense to show how urgent is the necessity of the force. There is another consideration which deserves attention. The fact that once in his possession all the circumstances now so favorable to us are of