been saved between the time of the fall of Fort Donelson
and the arrival of the enemy in Nashville
We shall complete this chapter by a brief account of a defeat cf Confederate arms that preceded by several days the fall of Fort Donelson
, and took place on a widely separated theatre of the war. The thread of Confederate disaster takes us here from the tributaries of the Mississippi
to the low and melancholy sea-line of North Carolina
About the middle of January, 1862, Gen. Burnside
entered Pamlico Sound
at the head of an expedition, consisting of more than sixty vessels of all kinds, twenty-six of them gunboats, and with at least fifteen thousand men. It readily became apparent that Roanoke Island
was the first object of his attack.
This important island lies in the broad inlet between Pamlico
and Currituck Sounds
, and about midway between the main land and the narrow strip of bank which dykes out the ocean.
It was of great moment to the South
to defend it, for its possession by the enemy would unlock to them Albemarle
and Currituck Sounds
, open to them eight rivers, give them access to the country chiefly supplying provisions to Norfolk
, and enable them to menace that city, and the four canals and two railroads running through the country by which it was surrounded.
Gen. Henry A. Wise
, who had been ordered to the command of the department embracing Roanoke Island
, declared that it should be defended at the expense of twenty thousand men, and many millions of dollars.
But to his estimates of the importance of the position he found that the Richmond
authorities had a deaf ear. On the 7th of January, 1862, Gen. Wise
assumed command, and made an examination of the defences.
He found them inadequate, in his opinion, to resist even the force then at Hatteras
, and as the Burnside
expedition began already to point to the North Carolina
coast, he called urgently for reinforcements.
He addressed a letter to Mr. Benjamin
, the Confederate Secretary of War
, and followed it by a personal interview, in which he strenuously insisted that more troops should be sent to the island.
He urged that a large part of Gen. Huger
's command, at Norfolk
, might be safely detached, and used for the defence of Roanoke
He argued that the fifteen thousand men under Huger
were idle, and were only kept at Norfolk
in view of a possible attack, and that they would much more advantageously defend the city, by guarding the approaches through the Sound
, than by remaining inactive.
He explained that Roanoke Island
guarded more than four-fifths of all Norfolk
's supplies of corn, pork and forage, and that its capture by the enemy would cut the command of Gen. Huger
off from all its most