ASSISTANT INSPECTOR-GENERAL'S OFFICE,
Charleston, S. C., June 18, 1863.
Brigadier General THOMAS JORDAN, Chief of Staff:
GENERAL: In compliance with instructions from the general commanding, I examined the papers on file at department headquarters, relative to complaints of General Ripley, about matters concerning the engineer department, and I now beg leave to submit the following report:
General Ripley, in his letter of May 24 and June 6, 1863, to department headquarters, states in substance, that the works ordered on Morris Island, the repairs on Fort Sumter, and the bridges and cause ways from James Island to Morris Island, are progressing very slowly, and with apparent negligence and carelessness on the part of the engineer in charge of them; that the continued occupation and activity of the enemy on Folly Island should lead us to expect an attack from that direction; that in view of such events, and believing from the actual state of things that it would be in vain to rely on the engineers for the work to be done, he intends to send a strong and effect company to the southern extremity of Morris Island, under a competent officer, to cause him to be supplied with material, and to have the magazines, &c., put up, and batteries in readies for service as quickly as possible.
General Ripley, referring to the reports of Colonels Graham and Simonton condemns the manner in which the bridges and causeways form James to Morris Island are being constructed, and asserts that the officer in charge of the works on Morris Island has been careless and inattentive to his duties; that working parties, consisting of details from Colonel Graham's regiment, were several times at their posts, and no engineer was present to direct their operations; that at other times the details of men furnished for engineer work were only partially employed, while others were lying idle some portion of eh time; that being of opinion that months would elapse before said works could be completed, while those of the enemy were fast progressing, he finally placed Captain Mitchel, of the First South Carolina Artillery, in charge of the works on Morris Island; that he believes circumstances justified him in tracing such a step, &c.
Lieutenant-Colonel Harris, chief engineer of the department, to whom General Ripley's letters were referred, forwards to department headquarters the reports of Major Echols and Captain Howard, and the communications of Mr. Cheves, Mr. White, and Mr. Mathewes, in explanation of the character and condition of the works alluded to, and to the engineer department, but chiefly owing to the want of labor and transportation, which has been, and is still, a serious brawn back to the prosecution of the defensive works, not only in this military district,but in the whole department.
The report of Captain Howard, in charge of the bridges and causeways from James Island to Morris Island, and the indorsement of Major Echols, confirming the statements of said reports, show that the bridges and causeways spoken of, though not made of the very best material, are amply sufficient for the purposes they were designed, to wit, for the passage of infantry; and that in their actual unfinished condition they could now be used, in all safety, for the passage of troops.