Richmond, Va., March 18, 1862

Maj. Gen. B. Huger,

Commanding, &c., Norfolk, Va.:

General: It has been represented to me that the work at Harden’s Bluff, Fort Huger, is not in good defensive condition. The items of fault are reported to be as follows:

1. Want of proper traverses.

2. Want of bomb proofs.

3. Existence of wooden buildings inside the work.

4. The six 32-pounders for hot shot are not on barbette carriages and there are no guns mounted for land defense.

5. The woods are left standing close to the work on the outside.

6. The men have not been drilled at their guns for some time past.

7. A want of harmony and zealous co-operation among some of the officers, resulting from questions of rank (it is said Captain de Lagnel,1,who was sent to command the battery of heavy guns, is junior to the captain of one of the companies serving at the battery, and that this is one cause of trouble; and that Colonel Archer2 and Captain de Lagnel do not accord entirely).

Captain Rives3, in charge of the engineer office here, reports in regard to the items of complaint as follows:

1. Traverses are in progress of construction.

2. Bomb proofs are being made as rapidly as possible.


4. The six 32-pounders have not been mounted en barbette because he has not been able to procure the carriages, and for the same reason no guns have been placed for the land defense. He thinks, however, that he can procure at least two barbette carriages on which to mount a like number of guns looking to the land, and will send them to Fort Huger at once, with as many more as can be obtained, and will do the same in regard to the other carriages and guns so soon as they can be procured.

5. The engineer in charge of Fort Huger has long since been instructed to have the woods felled. A want of axes may have prevented the execution of the order. He will, however, be directed to have this work done at once to the extent of his means.

I have stated both sides of the question as presented to me. You will know what importance to attach to several complaints. I think the wooden buildings in the fort, if that cause of complaint be real, should be removed as soon as practicable. If they are used as quarters, cannot tents be substituted for them? If for store-houses, some portions of the bomb proofs might be arranged to supply their places, which latter I am told is being done.

The clearing of the woods near the battery is of course necessary, and I am surprised that the commanding officer of the fort has not had this done by the troops. If the engineer force has more important work to do, axes sufficient could probably be procured from the neighbors, if they cannot be supplied in any other way.

The drill has probably been interrupted by the change in the guns, but should be resumed.

The last item of complaint, “Want of harmony among officers,” is the most important. The senior officers present should command all, but the immediate command of the guns and the men serving them should be with Captain de Lagnel, as he was assigned to his present position because of his supposed capabilities as an artillery officer. This is not time to squabble about rank; every one must work, and do what he can to promote the cause. To save time I have assumed the statements made to me to be true, which is most likely not the case; and my suggestions on this suppostion are intended mainly as explanatory.

You can best determine whether the faults referred to are so and provide the remedy, and you are desired to give the subject your earliest attention.

I am, &c.,

R E Lee

General, Commanding




Source: The War of the Rebellion, Series 1, Volume 11, Part 3, pp. 384-385


Transcribed by Colin Woodward, 2017 April 28    


1. Julius Adolph de Lagnel (1827-1912), a native of New Jersey.

2. James J. Archer (1817-1864).

3. Alfred L. Rives (1830-1903), who was born in Paris and attended the Virginia Military Institute, was the son of William Cabell Rives (1793-1868).