At 12 m. the general commanding, accompanied by Major-General Hoke, reached the garrison and examined the work and the movements of the enemy. General Hoke sent to our support Graham's gallant regiment of South Caroling, the men of Wagner, and no further thought was had of assault by night or day. It soon become evident the enemy was abandoning the land. In what force he landed I can only conjecture; certainly we observed them six hours taking off their troops.
Not the least remarkable event of this affair was the arrival during Tuesday night of the steamer Wild Rover, and the entrance at 7 a. m. on Wednesday of the fine steamer Banshee. Four blockaders in sight of the main body of the fleet making a feeble effort to interrupt her, Colonel Lamb opened on them with the Whitworth, but they kept far out of range. During the day many of the fleet left, and by Thursday morning none remained but the usual blockaders. Thus ended this extraordinary movement - extraordinary in the magnitude of the preparation, the formidable character of the fleet, the severity of the fire, and the feebleness of the enemy's effort on land.
I have a few remarks to add to this account which may not be out of place. The movements of the enemy are not clear to me. At the long range we could not have damaged them so seriously as to cause this rapid abandonment of the attack. Still, I do not think the fleet could have maintained such an extraordinary fire for another day from the enormous expenditure of ammunition. The landing was effected precisely at the point so often indicated in my reports to the War Department as the true point of attack, and this demonstrates not only the necessity of the works commenced in the vicinity of Sugar Loaf, but the still greater need of a strong supporting force and a strong garrison for the fort. That great and irreparable disaster did not overtake us we owe to God. The constant storms which prevailed from the time the enemy sailed until the 24th alone saved us. Contrary to repeated warnings and remonstrances, the supporting force had not only been entirely withdrawn, but the very garrisons of these important works reduced one-half. The enemy was undoubtedly aware of this fact and probably not aware of the approach of the troops of General Lee. Whatever the power of resistance of the fort, and it is great, no doubt the delay due to the heavy weather of Wednesday and Thursday after arrival of the fleet was its salvation, the small number of artillerymen then present being totally inadequate to so extensive a line. This delay enabled three battalions of reserves to be thrown into the fort, together with the small number of regulars I obtained by stripping the other forts, and the commanding general to push forward the slowly arriving troops from the Army of Virginia. The appearance of a garrison after such a bombardment, intact and ready to repel assault, no doubt intimidated them, while the advance of Hoke's division completed their discomfiture; but we cannot always hope for such aid from weather or the blunder of the enemy manifest here from his not landing and occupying the work before he commenced his bombardment, and I trust the lesson will not be lost.
The experience gained is satisfactory as to the great power of resistance in these heavy earth-works to the most formidable and sustained fire I have known of; the effectual protection afforded by the huge and elevated traverses and high interior crests against both enfilade and direct fire, and the advantage of distributed guns and detached batteries as against a stationary sea attack - by which I mean one like this, when a large fleet takes position to attempt to overpower by its force and shell out the garrison; but the question as to attempting to pass the forts