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[117] Burnside said to Surgeon Coles that in all his experience he had never known so small a body of men give so much trouble, and cause so much loss to so overwhelming a force. The men of the Wise Legion did all that the same number of men could have done.

And now, why did Gen. Wise fight his men against such odds? In answer, we have to say, that he had no election. When the department was organized, and before his Legion left Richmond, he repaired in person to the island, examined into its condition, and hurried back a month ago, to warn his superiors at Norfolk and Richmond of the indefensible condition of the island, and its utter want of means of defence.

His remonstrance at Richmond was met by a peremptory order to the island, and there to defend it; and at Norfolk he was told that men were not wanted. All we wanted were “supplies, coolness, and hard work.” After this, he was obliged to work and fight without means and without men. No men ever behaved with greater coolness; but there was no time to work, and his Legion fought ten to one up to the muzzles, and without flinching. The government had permitted the golden time for work to pass unimproved; the delay of the enemy, caused by providential interference, had not been improved by the confederate authorities, and, notwithstanding the glorious performance of his Legion, all was lost — the granary and the larder of Norfolk is gone — and the enemy are at the back-door of Norfolk. Upon whose shoulders the blame should fall, we cannot say. Gen. Wise is free from all censure. If there is to be no investigation into such disasters, we hope that the department will honestly and openly assume the responsibility, and that Congress and the people will look out for better preparation in the future.

Successes call for no investigation, but disasters demand the utmost scrutiny into their causes. An investigation will establish whether or not the disaster could have been prevented. If it could not have been prevented, the public mind will be satisfied. If any officer is responsible for the disaster, an investigation would discover him, and he should be removed, whatever may be his position. The cause demands that no man responsible for such a disaster should be permitted to further compromise the destiny of the Confederacy. If it be the Secretary of War, or General Huger, or General Wise, let it be known. As for General Wise, without consultation with him, with only a general knowledge of his purposes, made known to us before he left Richmond, we invite and solicit the fullest investigation that can be had.

We shall be told by the timid that this is no time for investigation; that the enemy are at our doors, and that we should prepare to meet them by closing up our ranks and hushing our dissensions. Our worst enemy, and one we have most to fear, is inefficiency. Investigation alone can defeat that enemy — congressional scrutiny can alone overcome this Federal ally that assails our real.

Gen. Wise's Legion was not constituted like other brigades, he was required to raise his own command, and there never was one company assigned to him by the War Department. He recruited three full regiments and one battalion of eight companies of infantry, eight companies of cavalry, and four companies of artillery. And notwithstanding that he recruited and armed this command, one regiment was separated from it and sent to South-Carolina, without even the respect of consulting him; another divided and dissipated — his cavalry and artillery are now ordered to North-Carolina, and General Wise ordered to report at Manassas with three companies of infantry. If, by this order to report at Manassas, the Department mean to insinuate that any portion of the responsibility of the Roanoke disaster belongs to Gen. Wise, let Congress call for the correspondence between the Department and Gen. Wise, and the public can then decide where the responsibility should properly rest.

The Roanoke reverses.

To the Editor of the Richmond Examiner:
The independent conduct of your journal emboldens me to venture a criticism upon the late reverses at Fort Henry and Roanoke Island, which may be grating to ears polite, but is rendered necessary by the condition of the country. It is high time that these surrenders should cease. for, considering the character of the war in its consequences to us, they have been truly amazing, commencing with that of the cavalry at Alexandria down through that of Col. Pegram, at Rich Mountain, that of Com. Barron, at Hatteras, etc., etc., to the present lamentable instances.

At Fort Henry a Brigadier-General, unwounded, having a garrison almost intact, lowers his flag over a dozen guns of the largest calibre, and with a hackneyed compliment, yields up his bloodless sword. How withering and humiliating to our Southern manhood was the sorrowful reply of the Yankee Commodore. That the general should have neglected to make preparation for preventing the enemy from ascending the river and burning the railroad bridge, may be passed over, because no commission can make a man a commander unless it be given by nature; but if the statement as to his surrendering be true, is he to be retained upon the rolls of the Southern army as an officer?

The Roanoke affair is perfectly incomprehensible. The newspapers are filled with extravagant laudations of our valor — the annals of Greece and Rome offer no parallel — whole regiments were defeated by companies, and we yielded only to death. Our men finally surrendered “with no blood on their bayonets,” and what is the loss? Richmond Blues, two killed and five wounded; McCulloch Rangers, one killed and two wounded; the other four companies lost in all two killed and eleven wounded. Comment is needless. The whole army had better surrender at once, for it will eventually come to it.

I am, sir, etc.,

an officer.

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