The great naval expedition.
A correspondent to the New York Times
, from the ‘"Steamship Atlantic
, Hampton Roads, Va.
, Oct. 25,"’ contains some interesting particulars with regard to the great naval expedition which has recently left that quarter, but fails to give any light as to its destination.
Below will be found some extracts from the letter:
Disembarkation ordered — fear of an attack from the Confederates.
The officers and men were in the midst of their rejoicing at the prospect of speedy relief from the state of tedious inaction which always exists on board a crowded ship, when Gen. Sherman
unexpectedly dampened their gladness by an order directing the disembarkation of the entire force.
This order, cinched in terse military terms, requiring the men to land in the line of battle, with ammunition and complete equipments, afforded great latitude for conjecture as to its object, and all manner of ridiculous surmises were current.
The one most generally received was, that a demonstration would be made upon Sewell's Point
, where a saucy battery belonging to the rebels is erected.
The minds of many were prepared to accept this solution of the vexed question, because it had not been altogether unanticipated that the iron-clad Merrimac
might at any moment round the sandy promontory and escape to sea. The battery at the Point
commands the channel, and with these guns in possession of our forces the chances of running the blockade in that direction would be materially lessened.
I have heard grave fears expressed for the safety of the fleet as it lies at anchor here.
Should the rebels be desperate enough for the undertaking, there is no doubt that a vessel such as the Merrimac
is said to be could do immense injury to these unprotected transports.
What could prevent her coming down some moonlight night and pouring a few broadsides of shells into our midst?
The vessels are so numerous and close together that the havoc in such a case would be enormous.
Of course the rebel vessel would be speedily overpowered by the sheer weight of numbers, but desperate men, fighting for a desperate cause could, in the opinion of experienced persons, do much mischief in this way. However, they have seen fit not to trouble us, and their opportunity will have passed away ere this reaches you.
The object Disclosed.
Close calculations of the object of the debarkation have all been dispelled by the developments of this morning.
Instead of attacking Sewell's Point
, the soldiers are landing among friends on the beach, beneath the frowning battlements of Fortress Monroe
determined upon this step in order to demonstrate with what expedition the troops could land upon the enemy's shore.
The facilities for disembarking are thus made manifest, and the men have the great advantage of practicing the parts they will be called upon to perform upon a more important and vastly more trying occasion.
The landing is now in progress, and surf boats, manned by the crows of the ships-of-war, and of the transports, each capable of carrying from fifty to one hundred soldiers a trip, are used.
The whole day is likely to be consumed by the undertaking, and I doubt whether I can give the result in this letter.
The time of departure — order of Sailing, &c.
I believe the expedition will certainly leave to-morrow, and, therefore, will be far beyond the reach of harm resulting from the publication of any information I may disclose.--Such being the case I send herewith the order of debarking the forces.
The expedition will be under convoy of the naval squadron.
The transports will form in three columns in the rear of the naval ships.
The first column, composed of the Third Brigade, (Gen. Wright
's.) will form in line on the right.
The second column, consisting of the Second Brigade, (Gen. Stevens
's,) to which the Third Rhode Island Regiment
vessels and other craft, unable to keep up with the larger steamships, will be towed by such vessels as the chief Quartermaster may designate.
The expedition is intended to be made to the enemy's coast, probably under circumstances requiring the almost coolness and intrepidity on the part of every officer and man of the command.
It was believed by the War Department that there were at least 1,000 slaves, or ‘"contrabands,"’ at Fortress Monroe
, able to perform a certain sort of labor necessary to the accomplishment of the purpose of the expedition — such work as throwing up entrenchments and adding to the comfort of the officers.
Six hundred of these negroes were to have accompanied us, but there is scarcely that number at the fortress, and Gen. Wool
has plenty of employment for all of them there.
We therefore do not take any.
I learn that the disembarkation, as an experiment, to-day, was perfectly successful.