Federal gunboat or a monitor might have been allowed to enter the Charleston Harbor without being interfered with.
Having thus exonerated the officers of Fort Moultrie from all criminality, it remains to ascertain what, if any, blame should attach to the parties connected with the steamer and responsible for her movements.
Lieutenant-Colonel Dantzler was the ranking officer on board, but from the statement of both himself and Major Pringle (see Exhibits B* and S+) it seems that the latter had the actual command of the boat.
Major Pringle, whose zeal and activity from the beginning of this siege to the present moment have been so highly creditable, was, indeed, in a perplexing situation. He had been compelled to use a steamer, instead of small boats as usual, to convey the relief troops to Morris Island. The delays apparently, always unavoidable with volunteer troops, caused him to arrive at Cumming's Point landing when the tide was already falling. To return with the troops relieved he had to do one of two things, either to wait for the tide and then be exposed to the enemy's fire in broad daylight, or to run in the channel around the Cumming's Point buoy. He preferred the latter course, and acted accordingly. I must say here, however, that Major Pringle, who knew he was taking an unusual way of returning to the city with the steamer, should not have left the Cumming's Point landing without notifying Sumter and Moultrie of the course it was his intention to follow. that omission of his was certainly a very unfortunate occurrence, for he knew, or ought to have known, that rumors of an attack by the Federal fleet that very night was the common topic of the town. Had he called on the signal station at Cumming's Point, and sent a dispatch to Fort Sumter, the disaster we all so deeply deplore, and which the major, when it occurred, did so much to lessen by his exertions on the steamer (see Exhibit B and U), would certainly not have happened. My conviction, however, is that Major Pringle, who is liable to that measure of blame which I have stated above-that is, of imprudence, of oversight-is not the party to whom all the blame should attach. The general in command of the First Military District ought to have organized long since a regular concerted system of night signals between our transports and our harbor batteries, and somewhat similar to the one existing, as I am officially informed (see Exhibit W), with regard to the navy. It cannot for a moment be doubted that such a system, had it been properly established and rigidly enforced, would have prevented this most unfortunate loss of property and life.
Lieutenant-Colonel, and Assistant Inspector-General.
Brigadier General THOMAS JORDAN, Chief of Staff.
Numbers 3. Report of Lieutenant Colonel John F. Lay, Assistant Inspector-General, C. S. Army.
CHARLESTON, S. C., September 4, 1863.
COLONEL: In obedience to instructions, I visited Sullivan's Island yesterday with reference to a full investigation of all the facts and
*See p. 694.
+See p. 700.