property were exposed for no end whatever after the canal was obstructed. I should "without orders" have abandoned the position, but I was not "without orders." On the 11th of February General Huger sent me a letter of which the following is a copy.*
I immediately and gratefully acknowledged the kindness of this tender of sick leave, but respectfully declined it in a supplemental report to that from Poplar Springs, and informed General Huger that my health and strength were improving, and that I meant to remain with my men in the field. My reply was dated the 11th, and on the 11th, 12th, and 13th of February General Huger addressed me a letter of which the following is a copy.+
The above is one PAGE, with the word "over" at the bottom in ink. On the other side in ink is written: ++
This was received the 13th of February. I had already placed the three guns on board a vessel with the intention at first to remove them to a better position; but afterward concluded, upon consulation with my officers, to fall back, and when thus left to my own judgment at what point I could be most usefully employed, and when thus warned by the commanding general that by the enemy's movement up the rivers they were passing round my position, I was fully confirmed in this conclusion. Accordingly I commenced retiring. In the act of doing so two or three steamers of the enemy appeared at the west end of the canal and comemnced shelling the bridge. My guns then were all three on board the vessle, and the transports were moving. The enemy found the canal obstructed and stopped at the mouth. The shots fell short. Colonel Corprew was with his force on the south side of the canal, and asked whether he should cross to the north side, and I ordered him to do so. He crossed, and his men were halted by my order a short distance from the canal. I remained at the canal until the dredging machine was turned so as to sink across it. Whilst doing this Colonel Corprew's command moved on without orders, leaving the threee legion awaiting orders. There was no end whatever to be attained and great risk run by remaining to defend so defenseless a point by a force so small, and late on the 13th of February I fell back to Currituct Court-House with the eight companies under my command, leaving a picket of cavalry, under the orders of Captain Belsches, to act as vedettes.
On arriving at Currituck Court-House I found that the enemy could shell it from steamers if they should pass the canal; or, if they should move up from Indiantown, only eight miles, or from Elizabeth City, only nineteen miles, they might get around my position by marching up either what is called the Five-Mile road or the Nine-Mile road above Currituck Court-House. I determined then to fall back farther, and make a stand at either the bridge over Tull's Creek, or at that over Northwest River, and prevent the enemy from getting to the Little or Northwest Canal, or from approaching Great Bridge on a road leading directly to the rear of Norfolk, whence there were no defenses except near the town. During the march from the Court-House the weather was extremely bad, and on arriving at Tull's and Northwest bridges I found no quarter whatever. The condition of my men was such that I was compelled to fall back to Great Bridge to find shelter. Besides, in my judgment, it is one of the most important strategic points in the rear of Norfolk; there I thought I could be most usefully employed, and thence I thought I could easily and readily return to
*See Huger to Wise, VOL. IX, p. 157.
+See Huger to Wise, VOL. IX, p. 158.
++See Huger to Wise, VOL. IX, p. 159.