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[130] sent a duplicate to me, with a letter expressing the above views, knowing the reduced state of the force at my disposal. He writes, viz.: “I have no idea of getting any troops, but have always been anxious to see more troops in North Carolina.”

Notwithstanding this expression of his sentiments, I had a conference with General Palmer and Commander Davenport, United States Navy, and the heavy gunboat “Tacony,” which is equal to two or three regiments, was immediately despatched to Plymouth.

On the eighteenth instant the “Tacony” arrived back from Plymouth, with despatches from General Wessels and Commander Flusser. General Wessels wrote that he did not apprehend any attack, and did not think there was a large force in his front. He expressed the opinion that there was doubt as to the “iron-clad” making its appearance, and believed that she was at Hamilton undergoing repairs or modifications. He wrote on the sixteenth, viz.:

I have the honor to report that the gunboat Tacony arrived here to-day, but as her presence at this time does not seem to be necessary, I have so informed her commander, and he proposes to return to Newbern to-morrow.

I cannot learn that there is any considerable force of the enemy on the river now, though such is the report from various sources.

I very much doubt if there is any design of bringing the thing (iron-clad) down. Still there may be, as they say, when the ‘Neuse-Ram’ is ready.

I am desirous of seeing more troops in this State,

&c.

Commander Flusser, also, wrote to Commander Davenport, Senior Naval Officer, viz.: “I think General Peck misinterpreted General Wessels' letter. We have had no scare here yet, and not even a small one for several days.”

These able commanders had so much confidence in their ability to hold their positions against anything the enemy could bring against them, that they sent back the reinforcements sent them. This action placed me entirely at rest respecting affairs at Plymouth.

On Monday (eighteenth) afternoon, about 5:30 P. M., I received advices by deserters that General Corse was in front of the outposts at Bachelor's Creek, with a large force of all arms, and that General Pickett would attack Little Washington on Tuesday.

This information, taken in connection with that from General Wessels, of the sixteenth instant, respecting the disappearance or diminution of the force in his front, led the authorities here to believe that Little Washington would be attacked immediately. Two steamers loaded with troops, together with the gunboat “Tacony,” were despatched to Little Washington.

At an early hour on Tuesday morning, the nineteenth instant, despatches were received from General Wessels and Commander Flusser, announcing an attack by a rebel land force, on the afternoon of the seventeenth instant. This was the first information received from General Wessels subsequent to the sixteenth instant, when the “Tacony” was sent back as above stated. The latest information received, through a contraband, the servant of Captain Stewart, A. . General, General Wessels' staff, is to the effect that early on Tuesday morning the “ironclad” had complete control of the Roanoke River, and in conjunction with the floating iron battery--the “Cotton plant” --was attacking the town in rear, while the land forces were engaging our troops in front.

From this statement it will be seen that the enemy had complete control of the Roanoke River, within a very few hours of the time I received General Wessels' despatch of Sunday night, the seventeenth instant.

On the reception of these despatches, which were very favorable, steamers were despatched with such available infantry as General Palmer could spare, together with supplies of ammunition for the Army and Navy at Plymouth, These steamers were detained in the Albemarle Sound by the gunboats, then lying in Edenton Bay, which had escaped from the “iron-clad” at Plymouth. In my judgment the non-arrival of the infantry at Plymouth, is most fortunate, as they, together with the steamers, beyond doubt, would have fallen into the hands of the enemy.

A steamer with despatches was promptly sent to General Harland, commanding at Little Washington, notifying him of the state of affairs at Plymouth. He was also requested to send down such surplus troops as he might have, to be used at such points as might seem necessary. I also sent despatches for the “Tacony” to proceed at once from Little Washington to Plymouth. Before these despatches arrived, Colonel Dutton, Chief of my Staff, had procured the sailing of the “Tacony” for Plymouth-going on board himself. Colonel Dutton also suggested to General Harland that he should send the steamer “Pilot-boy” with the Seventeenth Massachusetts volunteers to Plymouth, but General Harland did not feel at liberty to do so, in view of his situation.

All the information received by both the Senior Naval officer, Commander Davenport, and myself, was promptly sent to your headquarters, by both lines of communication.

General Wessells was supplied with provisions, forage, ammunition, tools, and other requisites for a protracted siege. His command numbered some two thousand five hundred at Plymouth, and the casualties were very small, notwithstanding five assaults on Monday. His position was intact up to the appearance of the “iron-clad” and “Cotton plant” at three A. M., the nineteenth, and but for the loss of the river he could have held the land forces at bay for weeks.

General Wessells and his command, and the navy under the late gallant Lieutenant-Commander Flusser, made a heroic fight worthy of our arms. They deserve well of the country, and


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