- 25 Jan 2020 15:18
January 25, Saturday
At Hatteras Inlet foul weather has long delayed Burnside’s Federal expedition targeting Roanoke Island, fierce gales whipping the waves into towering walls of water. At times the Picket, the tiny boat that Burnside had transferred to in order to calm his men, has appeared doomed, but fortunately remains afloat and no men are lost. Now the weather has finally calmed enough for Flag Officer Goldsborough to begin passing the ships over the sandbar into Pamlico Sound, only to receive a nasty shock—in spite of the risks they took to bring ships with such shallow drafts, they’re still too deep by about two feet for many of the ships to clear the sandbar even when they are lightened of men and cargo. For a time it appears the entire expedition will have to be scrapped, but a solution is found—a few of the largest transports are deliberately driven onto the sandbar under full steam, then held in place by tugs and anchor as the tide digs out the sand beneath their keels. Once afloat, they are driven farther into the sandbar until, foot by painful foot, a deep channel is cleared and the flotilla begins to enter Pamlico Sound. The last of the transports won’t clear the bar until February 4th.
During this time the Federal expedition is incredibly vulnerable to attack, but Brigadier General Henry A. Wise—the former governor of Virginia that gave General Lee so many headaches during his failed campaign in western Virginia—has only eight small work boats that have been converted to gunboats by placing a single 32-pounder per ship (save the CSS Sea Bird, which has two). General Wise has contemptuously referred to them as a “mosquito fleet,” and the name has stuck. It could do little more than sting the 64-gun Federal fleet, and would run the constant risk of being wiped out. His forces aren’t much better on land, to oppose the Union’s 13,000 troops some 1,400 men on Roanoke Island with Wise’s sole reserves some 800 troops stationed at Nags Head on the Outer Banks and 700 men on route from Norfolk. He also has little in the way of artillery—three forts with a total of 25 guns covering the channel along the island’s west coast, and on the mainland a barge mounting seven guns hauled up on the mud flats and given the plucky name of Fort Forrest. Wise knows how outmatched he is and has been bombarding authorities in Richmond for further reinforcements, to no avail—Secretary of War Judah P. Benjamin argues that little can be spared without seriously weakening the Confederate battlefront in northern Virginia. The only person in a position to offer Wise real assistance is his immediate superior, Major General Benjamin Huger, who has 13,000 idle men at his disposal. But his response to Wise’s request is that he should demand “hard work and coolness among the troops you have, instead of more men.”
At Romney, Virginia, General Loring’s brigades that General Stonewall Jackson left to garrison the town are not happy with their assignment. Eleven of Loring’s brigade and regimental commanders sign a petition to Loring: “Instead of finding, as expected, a little repose during midwinter, we are ordered to remain at this place. Our position at and near Romney is one of the most disagreeable and unfavorable that could well be imagined.” When Loring receives the petition, he writes a covering note saying that it sets forth “the true conditions of this army” and sends it through channels to Jackson. Jackson dispatches it to the War Department with a brusque notation: “Respectfully forwarded, but disapproved.” To ensure that his officers’ petition doesn’t get stopped on its way to Richmond, Loring breaks with protocol and gives Colonel Taliaferro, about to depart for Richmond on leave, a copy of the petition and asks him to hand it personally to President Davis.
Ideas are far more powerful than guns. We don’t allow our enemies to have guns, why should we allow them to have ideas?
To educate a man in mind and not in morals is to educate a menace to society.