rate, the enemy freely admit it in their public prints, deserters and prisoners confirm it, and two successive engagements, each of several hours' duration, between the monitors and the Sullivan's Island batteries, failed to draw a shot from Sumter, although she was within easy range of the fleet. You will doubtless remember, also, your own statement that it was not Sumter you feared, as its guns had been removed to Sullivan's Island.
It is known, however, that one single gun [a smooth-bore 32-pounder] remained mounted in an embrasure looking directly toward Charleston, but it could not be brought to bear upon a vessel entering the inner harbor until she got well into Rebellion Roads, considerably over a mile distant.
What other guns the enemy may have placed there recently, taking advantage of the three weeks' lull in operations against him, is unknown to me.
As to the outer channel obstructions, and the practicability of their being removed, the gun above referred to does not cover or protect them at all, and, according to the latest accounts, parties operating against them would be exposed to no fire from Sumter, except that of small-arms.
What they would be likely to suffer from the Sullivan's Island batteries, if discovered, you are doubtless as well, if not better, able to judge than myself. The fire from that direction would, beyond question, be immeasurably more severe than any that could be delivered from the ruins of Fort Sumter.
With regard, therefore, to our occupation of Sumter as preliminary and accessory to the removal of the outer obstructions,f it becomes a mere question of the comparative loss of life and prospects of success likely to ensue from two distinct methods of operation, both having the same object in view, viz, the passage of the monitors by those obstructions. In other words, the question is, shall we attempt to carry Sumter by assault, and hold it under a concentric fire upon all its faces from batteries within easy range and occupying three-fifths of the circumference of a circle of which Sumter is the center, or shall we remove the channel obstructions abreast of Sumter while the latter is held by the enemy?
It is easy to see which of these operations is attended with the greatest degree of peril and the least prospect of success.
I am myself willing to attempt the removal or destruction of the outer line of obstructions, rather than sacrifice men in carrying a work that possesses no power to harm an iron-clad fleet that has already repulsed one naval assault from small boats, that would be held with difficulty at the present time if we possessed it, and which must fall into our hands whenever the naval part of the programme before Charleston is carried out.
All the means at my disposal I am willing to expend freely, and even profusely, in order to secure that measure of success which is expected of us.
I am unable to see any real advantage in sacrificing life in order to possess Sumter just now, and am ready to undertake the removal of such obstructions as are in any way protected by it.
I am just in the act of moving my headquarters to Folly Island, which has prevented my calling to see you to-day, as I intended.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Q. A. GILLMORE,
Major-General of Volunteers, Commanding.