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most gallantly, and only retired after exhausting all their ammunition, and having lost the steamer Curlew and the Forest disabled.

In the mean time, the enemy had found a point of landing out of the reach of our field-pieces, and defended by a swamp from the advance of our infantry. The enemy having effected a landing here, our whole force took position at the redoubt or breastwork, and placed in battery their field-pieces with neces sary artillerymen, under the respective commands of Captain Schemerhorn, and Lieutenants Kinney and Seldon. Two companies of the Eighth and two of the Thirty-first were placed at the redoubt to support the artillery. Three companies of the Wise Legion, deployed to the right and left as skirmishers. The remainder of the infantry were in position, three hundred yards in the rear of the redoubt, as a reserve.

The enemy landed some fifteen thousand men, with artillery, and, at 7 o'clock, A. M., of the "th, opened fire upon the redoubt, which was replied to immediately with great spirit, and the action soon became general, and was continued without intermission for more than five hours, when the enemy succeeded in deploying a large force on either side of our line, flanking each wing. The order was then given by Col. Shaw to spike the guns in the battery, and to retreat to the northern end of the island. The guns were spiked, and the whole force fell back to the camps.

During the engagement at the redoubt, the enemy's fleet attempted to advance to Croatan Sound, which brought on a desultory engagement between Fort Bartow and the fleet, which continued up to half-after 12 o'clock, when the commanding officer was informed that the land defences had been forced, and the position of the fort turned; he thereupon ordered the guns to be disabled and the ammunition destroyed, which was done, and the fort abandoned. The same thing was done at the other forts, and the forces from all the forts were marched in good order to the camp. The enemy took possession of the redoubts and forts immediately, and proceeded in pursuit, with great caution, towards the northern end of the island in force, deploying so as to surround our forces at the


Col. Shaw had arrived with his whole force at his camp ir

time to have saved his whole command, if transports had been furnished. But there were none. His situation was one of extreme exigency. He found himself surrounded by a greatly superior force upon the open island; he had no field-works to protect him; he had lost his only three field-pieces at the redoubt; and he had either to make an idle display of courage in fighting the foe at such immense disadvantage, which would have involved the sacrifice of his command, or to capitulate and surrender as prisoners of war. He determined upon the

latter alternative.

The loss on our side was, killed, 23; wounded, 58; missing, 62. Our mortality list, however, was no indication of the spirit and vigor of our little army, as in its position it had but little opportunity of contest without a useless sacrifice of human life on their side. Among the killed was Captain O. Jennings Wise, of the Richmond Blues, son of General Wise, a young man of brilliant promise, refined chivalry, and a courage to which the softness of his manners and modesty of his behavior added the virtue of knightly heroism. His body, pierced by wounds, fell into the hands of the enemy, in whose camp, attended by every mark of respect, he expired. The disaster at Roanoke Island was a sharp mortification to the public.


for the unfortunate general, who was compelled to hear on a sick-bed-perhaps to witness from the windows of a sick-chamber-the destruction of his army and the death of his son, there was not a word of blame.

In a message to Congress, President Davis referred to the result of the battle at Roanoke Island as "deeply humiliating;" a committee of Congress, appointed to investigate the affair, resented the attempt to attribute a disaster, for which the government itself was notoriously responsible, to want of spirit in our troops; declared that, on the contrary, the battle of Roanoke Island was "one of the most gallant and brilliant actions of the war;" and concluded that whatever of blame and responsibility was justly attributable to any one for the defeat, should attach to Gen. Huger, in whose military department the island was, and to the Secretary of War, Judah P. Benjamin, whose positive refusal to put the island in a state of defence secured its fall. There was, in fact, but little room for the government to throw reflection upon the conduct of the troops. In the lan

guage of their commanding general, "both officers and men fought firmly, coolly, efficiently, and as long as humanity would allow."

The connection of the War Department with the Roanoke Island affair, which was with difficulty dragged to light in Congress, is decidedly one of the most curious portions of the history of the war. Gen. Wise had pressed upon the governmen the importance of Roanoke Island* for the defence of Norfolk. He assumed the command of the post upon the 7th of January. In making a reconnoissance of the island and its defences, on the 13th January, he addressed Secretary Benjamin, and declared that the island, which was the key of all the rear defences of Norfolk, and its canals and railroads, was "utterly defenceless." On the 15th of January, Gen. Wise addressed the secretary again. He wrote that twenty-four vessels of the enemy's fleet were already inside of Hatteras Inlet, and within thirty miles of Roanoke Island; that all there was to oppose him was five small gunboats, and four small land batteries, wholly inefficient; that our batteries were not casemated; and that the force at Hatteras, independent of the Burnside expedition, was "amply sufficient to capture or pass Roanoke Island in any twelve hours.”

These written appeals for aid in the defences of the island were neglected and treated with indifference. Determined to leave nothing wanting in energy of address, Gen. Wise repaired in person to Richmond, and called upon the Secretary of War, and urged, in the most importunate manner, the absolute

* It (Roanoke Island) was the key to all the rear defences of Norfolk. It unlocked two sounds, Albemarle and Currituck; eight rivers, the North, West, Pasquotank, the Perquimmons, the Little, the Chowan, the Roanoke, and the Alligator; four canals, the Albemarle and Chesapeake, the Dismal Swamp, the Northwest Canal, and the Suffolk; two railroads, the Petersburg and Norfolk, and the Seaboard and Roanoke. It guarded more than four-fifths of all Norfolk's supplies of corn, pork, and forage, and it cut the command of General Huger off from all its most efficient transportation. It endangers the subsistence of his whole army, threatens the navy-yard at Gosport, and to cut off Norfolk from Richmond, and both from railroad communication with the South. It lodges the enemy in a safe harbor from the storms of Hatteras, gives them a rendezvous, and large rich range of supplies, and the command of the seaboard from Oregon Inlet to Cape Henry. It should have been defended at the expense of twenty thousand men, and of many millions of dollars.”—Report of Gen. Wise.

necessity of strengthening the defences upon that island with additional men, armament, and ammunition. Mr. Benjamin replied verbally to his appeals for reinforcements, that he had not the inen to spare for his command. Gen. Wise urged upon the secretary that Gen. Huger had about 15,000 men in front of Norfolk, lying idle in camp for eight months, and that a considerable portion of them could be spared for the defence of the rear of Norfolk, and especially as his (Gen. Wise's) district supplied Norfolk and his army with nearly or quite all of his corn, pork, and forage.

The reply to all these striking and urgent appeals was a peremptory military order from Secretary Benjamin, dated the 22d of January, requiring Gen. Wise to proceed immediately to Roanoke Island. With ready military pride the unfortunate general received the orders, without a murmur in public; it being known only to his most intimate friends the circumstances, under which he left Richmond on the stern and unpropitious mission which promised nothing to himself but disaster, the mistaken calumnies of the public, and death in the midst of defeat.

The facts we have referred to are of record. The committee of Congress that investigated the affair of Roanoke Island declared that the Secretary of War, Mr. J. P. Benjamin, was responsible for an important defeat of our arms, which might have been safely avoided by him; that he had paid no practical attention to the appeals of Gen. Wise; and that he had, by plain acts of omission, permitted that general and an inconsiderable force to remain to meet at least fifteen thousand men, well armed and equipped. The committee referred to was open to any justification that might have been sought by the Secretary of War, or his friends: none was offered; and the unanimous conclusion of the committee, in sharp and distinct terms, was put upon the public record, charging a Cabinet officer with a matter of the gravest offence known to the laws and the interests of the country.

The effect of war is always, in some degree, public demoralization; and the gravest charges are often lost and swallowed up in the quick and feverish excitements of such times. But whatever may have been the charities of speedy oblivion with respect to the charges against Mr. Benjamin, the public were,

at least, not prepared for such an exhibition of trust and honor as was given him by the President, in actually promoting him, after the developments of the Roanoke Island disaster, and giving him the place in his cabinet of Secretary of State. Whatever may have been the merits of this act of the Presi dent, it was at least one of ungracious and reckless defiance to the popular sentiment; and from the marked event of the surrender of Roanoke Island and its consequences, we must date the period when the people had their confidence weakened in the government, and found no other repose for their trust than in the undiminished valor and devoted patriotism of the troops in the field.

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