the chance of repulsing such an attack as the enemy may make in our favor. the longer the attack is postponed, if it comes, the stronger it may be expected to be.
It may be said that the works alluded to, as necessary for the defense of Sullivan's Island, are extensive, and require time and labor. Having this in view, I had the honor, on the 23rd of November last, to address a communication* to the headquarters of the department, stating in terms which I thought were plain, some reasons which in my opinion were apparent for the slow progress of the works then being constructed. After about one month and a half the communication was returned, and I was informed that it was of such a character as I had no right to make. It was suggested that I might prefer charges against the chief engineer or other officers of the department staff or report any want of energy in their operations which came under my observation within my command. The latter had been done frequently; as for the former, I had and have no knowledge of directions or orders issued to the officers in question by higher authority, and respectfully submit that being so ignorant I could not properly present such charges.
Having fulfilled what I believed to be my duty, and the paper having been returned, I remained quiescent under the system adopted, and saw the works progressing slowly and laggingly during the months of December, January, and February, at the expiration of about which time the work on Battery marshall was ordered to be pushed. Returning from a leave of absence of nearly forty days, I found the command reduced to about 2,900 effectives, and this still further reduced by details at Fort Sumter and other points. Work on Battery Marshall had been renewed, and apparently been going on for about two weeks, and I believe with more energy than formerly. I trust that it will be pressed to completion, and that every means will be taken to prevent waste of labor by throwing up works of unappropriate strength, or too frequent alterations for want of proper plan in the commencement.
Finding that the condition of things had not materially altered during my absence, and knowing from previous occurrence that I was not potential in any matters of material preparation or personal re-enforcement, I had the honor to state, on the 5th instant, that if the commanding general had any instructions to give me, I should be happy to receive them. The reply received on the same day stated that he had none, but informed me that it was reported that the enemy is again preparing an expedition against this place or Wilmington. Being thus placed in command of one of our most vital points, with no control over those matters on which, in my opinion, our success principally depends, I have deemed it my duty to examine into the state of things in the command, and submit this communication with the memoranda accompanying.
I trust that the communication is not of such a character as I have no right to make; if so, it can be treated as was that of the 23rd of November, 1863. Of some use, however, it may be, under any circumstances, and I trust that it will prevent the future necessity of interrogations or calls for retrospective opinions in any event.
I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
R. S. RIPLEY,
*See Vol. XXVIII, Part II, p. 515.