Of the same date is the following unofficial letter from the Assistant Secretary of the Navy
: ‘Matters are at a standstill on the Mississippi River
, and the President
was with difficulty restrained from sending off Hunter
and all the ironclads directly to New Orleans, the opening of the Mississippi
being the principal object to be obtained.
It is, however, arranged, as you will see by to-day's order, that you are to send all the ironclads that survive the attack upon Charleston
immediately to New Orleans, reserving for your squadron only two.
We must abandon all other operations on the coast where ironclads are necessary to a future time.
We cannot clear the Mississippi River
without ironclads, and as all the supplies come down the Red River
, that stretch of the river must be in our possession.
This plan has been agreed upon after mature consideration, and seems to be imperative.’
On the night after the attack officers on General Hunter
's staff were on board of the Ironsides
with the proposition for the flag-officer
to co-operate with General Hunter
in the reduction of Morris Island
, which, for reasons quite obvious, could not then be entertained.
In a reply to a very complimentary letter received from General Hunter
at this time, the Admiral
says: ‘I feel very comfortable, General, for the reason that a merciful Providence
permitted me to have a failure
instead of a disaster
, and if I had ever entertained for a moment any misgiving as to my course, the despatches just handed me would remove it.’
The following day, in a note to General Hunter
, he says: ‘I find the ships so much damaged during this short engagement as to force me to the conviction that they could not endure the fire to which they would be exposed long enough to destroy Sumter
or reach Charleston
I am now satisfied that ’