Flag-Officer’s Office,

Dock-Yard, Gosport, Va., April 3, 1862

His Excellency Jeff. Davis,

President Confederate States, Richmond:


Sir: I had the honor to receive your telegram of the 2d last night at a late hour.

General Huger and myself have conferred together upon the subject of obstructing Elizabeth River, and have agreed upon the point to be blocked up, if it becomes necessary. The sloop-of-war Germantown is now ready in all respects to be taken below, and the Confederate States will be in readiness in a day or two. The line-of-battle ships Delaware and Columbus are completely sunk alongside the wharf, their bottoms resting upon the mud. I have contracted with the Mssrs. Baker, who possesses all the appliances needed for raising sunken wrecks, such as steam-pumps, large floats, &c., and they commence operations on the Delaware to-day. The condition of these vessels is such as to render it impossible to conjecture when either will be raised. I shall employ every means with my control in aid of the contractors, so as to have these vessels available for the object contemplated at the earliest possible moment. If these ships could be available now, the part of the channel proposed to be obstructed could be effectually closed up; their great size would enable us readily to accomplish it. The point determined on by General Huger and myself is what is known as the Narrows, just this side Sewell’s Point; the distance thence to Norfolk is too great to be reached or compassed by the enemy’s shells.

There is some difficulty to be apprehended in blocking up the channel, however. The vessels cannot be sunk until the Virginia leaves, and to have them at the point in readiness to scuttle on the approach of the enemy would involve some risk of losing them. They might be reached by boat expeditions some dark night and destroyed. I repeat, however, that I shall use my best exertions to have everything in readiness, and exercise my best judgment, aided by General Huger’s large experience, in carrying out your directions.

I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

S. S. Lee,





Source: The War of the Rebellion, Series 1, Volume 11, Part 3, pp. 416-417

Transcribed by Colin Woodward, 2018 June 8