history will record in glowing terms their honorable conduct. A few days since, I communicated the information, entirely reliable, that floats were being prepared to buoy the “ram” over the principal shoals in the Neuse River, between this place and Kinston. It has been the intention from the first to bring the two “iron-clads” from the Roanoke and Neuse together in an attack upon Newbern. Should this movement be delayed, it will result solely from the exigencies of rebel service in other parts of the Confederacy. Colonel Ripley, commanding Sub-District of Beaufort, advised me of a contemplated movement upon Fort Macon, down the Banks, and that pontoons were being made with reference to this object. He further advised that it is currently believed in Onslow county, that General Martin has been assigned the same duty as before, to wit: the attack upon Newport Barracks and the railroad. The reinforcements sent to General Wessells have since been ordered to occupy Roanoke Island. The Chief Engineer has also been there to aid the Commander, in placing the Island in the best state of defense. The Chief Engineer expresses the opinion that the “iron-clad” will have no difficulty in passing through the Croatan Sounds and this opinion is concurred in by the Captains of our Transports. General Palmer, who is immediately responsible for the safety of Newbern and its appendages, was of the opinion that no more troops should be detached from his command. The Senior Naval Officer did not think it his duty to detach any of the force at his disposal here.
Iron-clads.Since our only disaster in North Carolina has resulted from the introduction by the rebels of formidable “iron-clads” in their offensive operations, it becomes very important to show what steps have been taken to advise Major-General Butler, and to protect North Carolina from rebel invasions. Soon after my arrival, I learned that the “iron-clad” was on the stocks at Edwards' Ferry, and advised the Department Commander in two communications, proposing a raid to burn it. The reply (in September) was, that “the force of the Department will not permit of the proposed movement at present.” September tenth, I asked for a small “iron-clad.” November fifteenth, 1863, I addressed Major-General Butler as follows, viz.:
During a recent visit at Plymouth, I found the Senior Naval Officer somewhat nervous in consequence of a report having reached General Wessells of an examination of the Roanoke, with a view to bringing down a “ram” at Edwards' Ferry, some twelve or fifteen miles below Halifax. All sorts of reports are put afloat for the purpose of influencing our operations. My latest advices are that she is not yet complete. Since assuming the command in North Carolina, I have kept strict watch over this matter, and frequently advised General Foster respecting the progress of the work on the “iron-clad.” I suggested the propriety of burning it in August, but the General did not feel very apprehensive, and replied that the troops at our command would not warrant the enterprise. The fortifications at Plymouth have been pushed with great vigor, and I have added materially to the armament. A water battery is in progress for a two hundred pounder rifle with a centre pintle carriage, which will complete the river works. While waiting for the two hundred pounder, I have moved a hundred pounder from Hatteras, which is the only available gun of the kind in North Carolina. I do not feel very. apprehensive, unless the “ram” moves in conjunction with a land force. Doubtless General Foster advised you that he had withdrawn all the best and available troops in North Carolina. There is no reserve force here, nor in any of the sub-districts. In case of an advance upon the lines, the force would be quite too small for a proper defence.December twenty-sixth, 1863, I wrote Major-General Butler, viz.:
If Longstreet is well provided for during the inactivity of Grant and Meade, and the quiet of General Gillmore, some forces could be collected for rebel enterprises in North Carolina, during our destitute condition.After the attack on Newbern, about the first of February, I wrote as follows:
In view of the great interests at stake in the State, and of the smallness of the force for its protection, I hope one regiment of cavalry and a brigade of infantry may be sent to me. A large force is much needed, and should be sent, if it can be spared without jeopardizing public interests elsewhere.February thirteenth, I wrote, viz.:
My information is of such a nature as to induce the belief that ‘Jeff Davis’ has decided upon recovering Newbern and the Sounds, probably as a preliminary step to Lee's retrograde movement in the spring. Both rams are expected down the Neuse and Roanoke in conjunction with land troops. It seems certain that the one at Kinston is intended to come down on the next high water.February eighteenth, I wrote, viz.:
On receiving most reliable information of the organization of a naval brigade for opening these Sounds, with the aid of the rams in Neuse and Roanoke rivers, I directed the blockading up of the Neuse with old hulks, within range of our battteries. This work is now in progress. I then proceeded to Little Washington and perfected similar arrangements in the Tar River, and fully advised all the authorities of the rebel plans, and gave the necessary orders for foiling them, to the extent of our means. Since my return I have examined men respecting the “ram” at Kinston, and their in