|Chapter XL. GENERAL REPORTS.
and promptly re-enforced within the next sixty days. Can you give him further aid without the probable loss of Charleston and Savannah? I need not state to you that issue is vital to the Confederacy.
My answer was:
Telegram is received. No more troops can be sent away from this department without losing railroad and country between here and Savannah. Georgetown District would have also to be abandoned. See my letter of 15th instant to General Cooper.
Thus, on July 10, 1863, I had but 5,861 men of all arms in the First Military District, guarding the fortifications around Charleston, or more than one-third of the troops in my department, with an enemy in my front whose base of operations threatened Savannah, the line of coast, and the important railroad connecting the former city and Charleston, and the latter city as well, with such immense transportation resources as to be able to concentrate and strike at will at any selected point before I could gather my troops to oppose.
In attacking Charleston itself, five different routes of approach present themselves to an enemy: First, by landing a large force to the northward, say at Bull's Bay, marching across the country, and seizin Mount Pleasant and the northern shores of the inner harbor. Secondly, by landing a large force to the southward, cutting the line of the Charleston and Savannah Railroad, and taking the city of Charleston in the rear. Neither of those routes did I consider practicable, or likely to be adopted by the enemy, as his numerical force would not have allowed him to cope with us unless under the shelter of his iron-clads and gunboats, a fact which General Gillmore has always carefully recognized. Before he adopts the overland approaches, he will require large addition to his land forces. The third, fourth, and fifth approaches, by James, Sullivan's, and Morris Islands, respectively, permitted, however, the co-operation of the navy, and I always believed - as experience has demonstrated - that of the three immediate routes to Charleston, the one by James Island was most dangerous to us, and the one one which should be defended at all hazards; that by Sullivan's Island ranking next, and the one by Morris Island last, in point of importance, for the following reasons: An enemy who could gain a firm foothold on James Island and overpower its garrison (at that time having to defend a long, defective, and irregular line of works) could have erected batteries commanding the inner harbor at once, taking in rear our outer line of defenses, and by a direct fire on the city compelled its evacuation in a short period, because in such a case it would become of no value as a strategic position, and prudence and humanity would alike revolt at the sacrifice of life necessary to enable us to retain possession of its ruins.
The route by Sullivan's Island was also of great importance, for its occupation would not only have enabled the enemy to reduce Fort Sumter as an artillery fortress, but would also have given entire control of the entrance to the inner harbor to his iron-clad fleet. At that time, owing to that want of labor and heavy guns, the important works which now line the shores of the inner harbor had not been erected and armed, and the enemy's fleet would have been able to shell the city comparatively unmolested, and, by controlling and cutting off our communications with Fort Sumter and Morris Island, would soon have necessitated their surrender or evacuation.
The remaining route by Morris Island was certainly the east injurious to us, for the occupation of the island by the enemy neither
|Chapter XL. GENERAL REPORTS.