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LOSS OF ROANOKE ISLAND.
efficient transportation. But Mr. Benjamin would not adopt these views, and would not disturb Gen. Huger; he told Wise sullenly that there were no men to spare to reinforce him; and at last he brought the conferences and protestations of the General to an abrupt termination by a peremptory military order, dated the 22d of January, requiring him to proceed immediately to Roanoke Island.
The defences of the island consisted of seven small gunboats and six land batteries, not casemated, and wholly inefficient. After manning the forts, there were scarcely more than eight hundred effective men. In the sickness of Gen. Wise, who was confined to his bed at Nag's Head, the immediate command devolved upon Col. Shaw, the senior officer present.
In the morning of the 7th of February the enemy made an attack, with twenty-two heavy steamers, upon the little Confederate squadron under the command of Commodore Lynch, and upon Fort Bartow, the most southern of the defences on the west side of the island. The action commenced at two miles distance, the Confederate gunboats retiring slowly with the intention of drawing the enemy under the guns of the batteries. Soon the air was filled with heavy reports, and the sea was disturbed in every direction by fragments of shell. Explosions of shell rang through the air; and occasionally a large one hundred and twenty-four pounder thundered across the waves, and sent its ponderous shot in the midst of the flotilla. At times, the battery would be enveloped in the sand and dust thrown up by shot and shell. The scene of this bombardment, which lasted continuously from ten in the morning until half-past five in the afternoon, was a singular and picturesque one. The melancholy shoreline which bound it, was an unbroken one of dark cypresses and pines. On the water were the enemy's vessels rapidly pouring out shot and shell at the line of Confederate gunboats or at the batteries. Still further on, just gleaming through the sunlight, was the forest of masts and the white sails of the transports, kept far in the rear out of the reach of danger.
Our casualties on the gunboats were only one man killed and three wounded. But the engagement had been disastrous. The Curlew, our largest steamer, was sunk, and the Forrest, one of the propellers, disabled. Commodore Lynch writes, in his official report, that at the close of the action he had "not a pound of powder or a loaded shell remaining." This singular deficiency of ammunition and the disasters he had already sustained, determined the policy of retreat, and under cover of the night, the squadron was drawn off to Elizabeth City.
Gen. Burnside gave orders that a landing should be made on the island the next morning. It was accomplished under cover of the gunboats, about the centre of the western shore. At nine o'clock the enemy advanced through a country swampy and covered with forest. About the centre of the island an entrenchment had been thrown up, covered on the
flanks by marshy ground; and here the Confederates took position to dispute the enemy's advance. But the marshes were found to be practicable. The Federals advanced with flanking columns debouching to the right and left. Their overwhelming numbers literally crowded upon and crushed our battery of three field-pieces on the left, while at the same time the enemy passed through the cypress swamp, which Col. Shaw thought im-. practicable, and turned the right flank. The order was given to spike the guns in the battery, and retreat to the northern end of the island. The Confederates were followed up to the shore, slowly and cautiously, by the enemy. Some effected their escape in boats, which were quickly towed away by a steamer; but the bulk of the command was captured, including two boats conveying the wounded, which were compelled to return by the enemy's fire.
The capture of the island was immediately followed by the pursuit of the Confederate gunboats. A squadron, consisting of fourteen gunboats, was detached for that purpose, and, on the 10th of February, found the remaining Confederate vessels drawn up in line in the narrow channel which leads up to Elizabeth City. After a brief and desultory engagement, the crews of the Confederate gunboats, after setting fire to the vessels, abandoned them, and fled for the shore. Thus was the disaster of Roanoke Island complete. The Confederates had lost in all the actions but twenty-three killed and fifty-eight wounded. But the disaster in other respects was great. The enemy had taken six forts, forty guns, nearly two thousand prisoners, and upwards of three thousand small arins; secured the water avenue of Roanoke River, navigable for one hundred and twenty miles; got possession of the granary and larder of Norfolk, and threatened the back-door of that city.
The disaster of Roanoke Island dates the period when public censure towards the Richmond Government appeared to have first awakened. Heretofore the administration of that Government had gone on almost
* In this action was killed Capt. O. Jennings Wise, of the "Richmond Blues," a son of Gen. Wise, a young man of brilliant promise, prominently connected with the Richmond press before the war, and known throughout the State for his talents, chivalric bearing, and modesty of behaviour. A correspondent furnishes the following particulars of the death of this brilliant young officer :
"About ten o'clock Capt. Wise found his battalion exposed to the galling fire of a regiment; turning to Capt. Coles, he said: 'This fire is very hot; tell Col. Anderson we must fall back or be reinforced.' Capt. Coles turned to pass the order, and was shot through the heart, dying instantly. Capt. Wise was wounded, first in the arm and next through the lungs, which latter wound brought him to the ground. He was borne to the hospital in charge of Surgeon Coles, and received two additional wounds while being borne from the field. That evening Surgeon Coles put him into a boat to send him to Nag's Head, but the enemy fired upon it, and he was obliged to return. The enemy seemed to regret this, and treated him very kindly, taking him out of the boat on a mattress, and starting back to the hospital. The next day, about eleven o'clock A. M., he calmly and in his perfect senses, without suffering, softly passed away. A Federal officer, standing by him and witnessing his death, said, 'There is a brave man ! ' "
LOSS OF ROANOKE ISLAND.
without inquiry, the people presuming on the wisdom of their rulers, and having but little curiosity to penetrate the details of their business, or to violate that singular official reserve which was thrown around the military condition of the Confederacy from the first gun of the war down to the final catastrophe. But such a disaster as that referred to, in which improvidence stared out, and in which an army had been put, as it were, in a mash-trap-in a condition in which it could neither hope for success nor extricate itself from a besetting peril-provoked public inquiry, and demanded an investigation.*
A committee was accordingly ordered in the Confederate Congress to report upon the affair of Roanoke Island. It 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. No defence to this charge was ever attempted by Secretary Benjamin »or his friends; and the unanimous conclusion of the committee, charging one of President Davis' Cabinet with a matter of the gravest offence known to the laws and the interests of the country, was allowed to remain on the public record without commentary or consequence.
*The Richmond Enquirer had the following commentary on the Roanoke Island affair. It contains a picture of Confederate improvidence, which was to be repeated at many stages of the war, and to put our scantiness and shiftlessness in frightful contrast with the active zeal and munificent preparations of the enemy:
"On the island no preparations whatever had been made. Col. Shaw's regiment, Col. Jordan's, and three companies of Col. Marten's regiment, had been on the island for months. These regiments numbered, all present, one thousand nine hundred and fourteen. Of these, about one thousand seven hundred were soldiers. There were four hundred and fifty absent and sick, leaving one thousand two hundred and fifty for all duty. From these, five batteries had to be manned, leaving, on the morning of the eighth, only eight hundred and three North Carolina infantry reported for duty. These had not been paid, or clothed, or fed, or drilled. The island had no implements for the labour on the works, no teams but two pair of broken-down mules, and no horses for field-artillery. There were but three pieces of field-artillery-one twenty-four pounder, one eighteen pounder, and one brass howitzer-the mules drew the latter, and the men the heavier pieces through the sand. There was only twelve-pounder ammunition for any of the large pieces. The forts, built on the island before Gen. Wise was assigned to the command, were all in the wrong places-at the north end of the island-leaving all the landings on the south end uncovered by a single battery. No breastworks had been made, and there were no tools to make any-the marshes at the south end of the island had no defensive works upon them. But one steam-tug and two barges were provided, and there were no means of retreat either by tugs or ferry. Thus it will be seen there were provided no means of defence, and still less of escape, though timely notice and a providential warning of twenty-five days had been given."
TRUE CAUSES OF THE CONFEDERATE DISASTERS IN THE SECOND YEAR OF THE WAR.—THE
VOLUNTEERS TO RE-ENLIST.-THE CONSCRIPTION LAW OF THE CONFEDERATE STATES.-ITS
EXCITEMENT ABOUT IRON VESSELS.-DISCUSSION IN THE NEWSPAPERS.-ADDITION OF IRONCLADS TO THE FEDERAL NAVY.-WHAT M'OLELLAN THOUGHT OF THE VIRGINIA.-CAPTURE OF NEWBERN, &C.—OBJECTS OF BURNSIDE'S EXPEDITION. BRANCH'S COMMAND AT NEW
BERN. THE CONFEDERATE WORKS ON THE NEUSE RIVER.-RETREAT OF BRANCH.-FEDERAL OCCUPATION OF NEWBERN.-CAPTURE OF FORT MACON.-THE ENTIRE COAST OF NORTH CAROLINA IN THE POSSESSION OF THE ENEMY.-THE SEA-COAST AN UNIMPORTANT PART OF THE CONFEDERATE DEFENCES.
THE series of disasters that befel the Confederates in the early months of 1862, may be distinctly and sufficiently traced to human causes. Instead of being ascribed to the mysterious dispensations of Providence, they are more properly named as the results of human mismanagement. The first important defeat of the Federal arms on the plains of Manassas was the initial point with the North of an enlarged scheme of war, and it was now simply giving proof of its "Anaconda Plan," and realizing the natural result of those immense preparations it had made by sea and land, to confound its adversary.
The rebukes which were now being administered to the vaingloriousness of the South were neither few nor light. The Confederates had been worsted in almost every engagement that had occurred since the fall of 1861. There had come disaster after disaster, culminating in the fall of Donelson, the occupation of Nashville, the breaking of our centre, the falling back on all sides, the realization of invasion, the imminence of perils which no one dared to name.
No one who lived in Richmond during the war can ever forget these gloomy, miserable days. In the midst of them was to occur the ceremony of the inauguration of the Permanent Government of the Confederate States. It was only a difference of name between two governments, one called Provisional and the other Permanent; for Mr. Davis had been unanimously elected President, and there was no change either of the organic law or of the personnel of the Administration. But the ceremony of the second inauguration of President Davis was one of deep interest to the public; for it was supposed that he might use the occasion to develop a new policy and to reanimate the people. The 22d of February, the day appointed for the inauguration, was memorable for its gloom in Richmond. Rain fell in torrents, and the heavens seemed to be hung with sable. Yet a dense crowd collected, braving the rain-storm in their eager interest to hear the President's speech from the steps of the Capitol. "It was then," said a Richmond paper, "that all eyes were turned to our Chief; that we hung upon his lips, hushing the beating of our heavy hearts that we might catch the word of fire we longed to hear-that syllable of sympathy of which a nation in distress stands so in need. One sentence then of defiance and of cheer—something bold, and warm, and human-had sent a thrill of lightning through the land, and set it ablaze with the fresh and quench