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[113] by ships-of-war, for they can be readily removed at night after a days fight is over. With a clear channel, and no batteries within a mile, a gunboat will put on a full head of steam and pass the shore fortifications with chances of more than two to one in favor of going by them without serious injury. Taking all things into consideration, I believe that, had no force been landed upon Roanoke Island, it must have fallen inevitably in the course of a few days by cutting off communication with the main land. It is evident to any one who will study the position of the island and the surrounding waters, that so soon as the Federal ships passed Roanoke it was literally in the hands of the enemy, and that the more men there were upon the island, the sooner must it have capitulated. In a subsequent letter, I will give my reasons for this statement more fully, and will endeavor to convince every one that, with the present resources of the Confederacy, it is impossible to hold such a point as Roanoke Island, where a large hostile fleet can be brought into action.

On the sixth of February, Corn. Lynch received intimation that Burnside's fleet was slowly feeling its way up Pamlico Sound. He at once sent the Curlew down to make a reconnoissance, and Capt. Hunter reported the fleet at anchor some six miles below the island. The evening was cloudy, misty, and very dark. Judging that the fleet would advance immediately upon the approach of clear weather, Com. Lynch sent word to Col. Shaw, the commander of the Island, to be ready for an engagement, on the morrow. The next morning, also, was dark and misty, but our fleet was drawn up in line of battle, the flag-ship on the right, and the others according to rank on the left, waiting for the approach of the enemy, when the fog cleared away.

After a time the sun lighted up the dense masses of clouds that hung over the sound, and soon after the wind lifted them in air, and sent them drifting seaward. This was at half-past 10, and at that hour the fleet of the enemy got under way and advanced slowly up the channel. Some twenty gunboats came up in line of battle, with two black steamers on either side, as flankers, some distance in advance. At thirty-five minutes past eleven, they arrived within about two miles of our fleet, and commenced firing with rifled guns of long range and heavy calibre. Gradually falling back, to bring the ships within range of the guns in the “Pork Point” battery, our ships finally made a stand, and at forty minutes past twelve, commenced the fight. Then the engagement became general, and rapid firing was kept up on both sides. Our steamers joined the battery in sending defiance to the thunder of the enemy's guns.

Meanwhile preparations were going on to make a defence on land, and word was sent to Gen. Wise to send over reinforcements immediately from Nag's Head. As soon as possible the Fifty-ninth Virginia regiment, under Col. Frank Anderson, with two companies of the Forty-sixth Virginia, under Captain O. J. Wise, were embarked on barges for the island. The fight had begun before the troops reached the point of Roanoke, and as the upper portion was rounded, the whole scene burst upon the eye. Ah! what a beautiful sight it was I Below, some three or four miles away, was our little fleet in line, and beyond was the enemy, rapidly pouring out shot and shell at them or at the batteries. Still farther on, just gleaming through the sunlight, was the forest of masts and the white sails of the transports, kept far in the rear out of the reach of danger. The Federal gunboats fired rapidly and with great precision, the shell exploding with admirable accuracy around our little boats. They replied spitefully and effectively, and made a most gallant and determined fight, skirmishing to the right and left to destroy the range and aim of the enemy. The guns of Fort Bartow fired slowly but steadily, and seemed waiting for a nearer approach before turning loose all the heavy “dogs of war,” that, shotted and aimed, crouched in readiness to spring upon the foe.

The barges containing the soldiers, towed by a small steamer, ran around the point of the island towards the engagement. The channel at that point was tortuous and narrow, and, there being but one approach to the landing-place near Fort Huger--the upper battery--it was necessary to proceed with great caution to prevent being grounded on the shoal. It became necessary to approach nearer the fight than was anticipated, and, almost before the fact became known, the barges were within range of the guns of the ships, and the shells began to explode around them at a furious rate. About that time Com. Lynch determined to skirmish to the rear behind the channel barricade, in order to draw the enemy on within a fair distance of Fort Huger. At the first intimation of retreat, the enemy's ships started forward, and our boats huddled together as much as possible to protect the barges, at the same time signalling them to retire. That moment was a fearful one for all. The shells came one after the other with terrible force and rapidity, their explosion ringing through the air, scattering the fragments in every direction over the water. Occasionally a large one-hundred-and-twenty pounder thundered across the waves, and sent its ponderous shot in the midst of the flotilla. The air was filled with heavy reports, and the sea was disturbed in every direction by fragments of shell. Several exploded near the barges, and pieces were thrown upon the decks, but fortunately doing no serious injury. One by one the gunboats came up and crowded around to receive the fire, all the time replying rapidly with their rifle guns, whose shells ricocheted into the enemy's ships. Immediately in front was the Fanny, with the gallant Tayloe, actively working his gun, and beyond the Beaufort, Capt. Parker, and the Sea Bird, the flag-ship of Commodore Lynch, and the others whose names I could not distinguish at the time. All acted nobly. All fought like veterans and heroes, as they are. As the boats neared the barges, the

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