Today in History:

892 Series I Volume VI- Serial 6 - Fort Pulaski - New Orleans


the work of destruction. In my instructions to him I said in regard to those unfinished gunboats:

You will communicate with the officer or agent having charge of the gunboats and deliver a letter which I will send you. If they can be towed up the Escambia, you will, after having completed thoroughly the destruction of the property I have mentioned, give such assistance as you can in towing them out of danger up the Escambia. If that cannot be done, you will destroy the gunboats also.

Lieutenant-Colonel Beard reported to me that it was found impracticable to tow the gunboats up the Escambia or put them out of reach of the enemy, and he therefore burnt them.

I was reluctant to give any orders for the destruction of these unfinished gunboats, and would have much preferred leaving them to the naval officers. But I was informed there was no naval officer present in charge of them. Commander Farrand, who had charge of them, was, by his own statement, in Jacksonville, Fla., and did not return to Pensacola until a week after they were destroyed. I was informed that there were no engines or machinery, if it could be procured, some time in May; that they were at that time in he hands of contractors and ship-carpenters, and that the mechanics and laborers employed about them could not be relieve on to destroy them to prevent their falling into the hands of the enemy. Under all the circumstances of the case, therefore, I thought it my duty to prevent the enemy from profiting by the results of so many months of labor bestowed on those unfinished gunboats, and accordingly ordered their destruction.

The Secretary of the Navy, in his letter of the 12th of April to the President, says: "So far as I am advised, the destruction of those vessels was uncalled for." I entertained at the time no doubt that the Secretary of the Navy knew that I was ordered to abandon Pensacola, and that the unfinished gunboats must either be destroyed or fall into the hands of the enemy; for I supposed that Major-General Bragg had ordered the abandonment of Pensacola under instructions from the War Department, or that he had communicated to the Department his instructions to me, and that the evacuation of so important a place as Pensacola would necessarily be known to the Secretary of the Navy. It not only contained much valuable naval property, but was the place of the Secretary's private residence, where much of his property was located. A number of his slaves were hired by my quartermaster, and a day or two after I received the order to prepare for the evacuation, and while I was calling upon the governor of Alabama for slaves to aid in removing public property, the Secretary's agent called upon me for his slaves, to be removed, as I was informed, with his furniture, to a place of security.

From all of these circumstances I was convinced that the Secretary was advised of the order for the evacuation of the place, and the consequent necessity of destroying the unfinished gunboats, to prevent them from falling into the hands of the enemy. I regret that I did not know at the time that the Secretary was not advised of the orders in the case, that I might have brought the matter to his notice.

I am, respectfully, your obedient servant,