HEADQUARTERS TROOPS OF
Near Pensacola., Fla., May 6, 1861.
Hon. L. P. WALKER, Secretary of War, Montgomery:
From the tenor of my orders and instructions there has existed no doubt in my mind that the Department desired me first to secure the defense of my position here, and then the reduction of Fort Pickens, if practicable. No suggestion has been regarded as an order to proceed in any manner contrary to my own conviction, and no step has been taken which my own judgment has not approved; but I have felt it a duty to lay before you the means and sacrifices necessary to accomplish the object.
The change which has been made in my proposed plan of operations is the result of unavoidable delay, by which the enemy has been enabled to frustrate my first intentions. Fort Pickens is now more than twice as strong as it was three weeks ago, and the approaches to it will be made more and more difficult every day. They are now extending their operations on the island of Santa Rosa, and every hour will add seriously to the difficulties to be overcome. The importance of rapid movement on our part is very apparent if we are to proceed to the reduction of Fort Pickens, but it would be very bad policy to move until we are prepared to succeed. My plan for a lodgment on the island is arranged, and will be executed as soon as the means are available. In the present state of that work, with a garrison fully competent for its defense, and a support at all times ready at hand in the fleet, its reduction will cost us many lives, much time and labor, and a very large expenditure of money. Whether the end will justify the means the Department must decide.
My works on this side, both for attack and defense, are nearly completed, and preparations are going on for the island movement, but we are still deficient in many essentials. Five thousand sets of infantry accouterments are necessary for the preservation of our ammunition. It is now carried by the men in their pockets, and one day’s hard service would destroy it all. A supply of musket cartridges is also a first necessity. Having yet had no response to my requisition of last March, I shall send an, officer to Louisiana to see if some can be had at Baton Rouge. The present supply here would last me in an engagement about thirty minutes. Our best defense against the fleet–shells–cannot be used for want of fuses. Not one has yet reached me. These items are not mentioned by way of complaint, for I know full well the difficulties and embarrassments which surround the Department, but simply to show how utterly impossible it is to check the enemy in his operations.
Night before last we succeeded in placing some serious obstructions in the channel between Forts Pickens and McRee, which will intimidate the fleet and seriously retard any movement to enter the harbor. It might be much more effectually blocked, but at a heavy expense for the necessary vessels. The entrance, however, of steamers would entirely frustrate our movement on the island, if it did not result in a capture of our force.
I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,