Today in History:

66 Series I Volume IX- Serial 9 - Roanoke


First, allow me to congratulate you upon the high position to which you have been advanced of being Commander-in-Chief of the Confederate forces, and to predict for you, however long our triumph may be delayed, a career of usefulness to the country and great honor to yourself.

I come again under your command with pleasure, and will execute your orders with alacrity and zeal. I have not time now to write a long letter nor have you perhaps the time to read one, but it is necessary that you should know the state of affairs here at once; and I therefore inform you that the number of my troops is far too small in comparison with the magnitude of the forces in front of me as well as that of the great interests which I have to defend. When in Richmond last the Secretary of War asked me the strength of the garrison at Newport News, and I answered "about 4,000 or 5,000." He desired me, in conjunction with Captain Buchanan, of the Navy, to capture them if possible. I readily assented, and proceeded to make the necessary arrangements. These were based, of course, upon the presumption that the garrison would remain as it was. Subsequently, in a conversation with Mr. Hunter, I was asked what troops I could spare. I answered that I supposed about 5,000. The next morning, after reflection, I wrote a communication to Mr. Hunter, stating that I found upon calculation I could spare but 2,000, and them only to operate for a short time and within convenient distance, and also upon condition that their places would be supplied by militia, from whim I could substitute in some of my works for better-drilled troops.

Soon after my return and before the Virginia was ready troops began to assemble at Newport News, and they have been steadily increasing in numbers ever since, so that now they cannot fall much short of 20,000 men. In consequence of this increase of troops and of the roads being impracticable for artillery I advised the Government against the co-operation. The threatening attitude of Burnside caused them to send about 5,000 troops from my command, which leaves me some 4,500 infantry disposable for the field and about 500 cavalry. With this number there is no line across the Peninsula which I could hope to defend with success. The enemy is fully aware of my having sent troops across the river, though on Sunday last I sent troops in the immediate vicinity of Newport News, and have been operating since with the hope of deceiving him.

A telegraphic communication has been established between Fort Monroe and Washington. All the enemy's ships of war have been sent out of the Roads except the Monitor Ericsson, and I expect an advance on James River every moment, supported by the Monitor, while the Virginia is in dock. No militia can be expected from the counties assigned to my district, as almost all of them have volunteered, the few remaining having been called out long since, not more than a few hundred and all.

I see by the papers that Burnside has landed his troops before New Berne. Under these circumstances is it not absolutely necessary to order back the troops which I sent to Suffolk? I certainly think so, and request that, in view of the above and of the heavy force at Newport News, which threatens the Peninsula, and the changed aspect of affairs at Suffolk, it may be done with the least possible delay. The infantry should come to City Point and by steamboats to King's Mill, and the cavalry, artillery, wagons, and ambulances should march to Carter's wharf and cross over to Jamestown Island. Should the enemy advance I should be compelled to withdraw at once the few troops