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Van Brunt, Captain G. J.
Group of Three Letters to Louis Malesherbes Goldsborough Concerning The Expedition to Roanoke Island, North Carolina and the Confederate Ironclad Virginia, 1862, from Van Brunt, Captain of the USS Minnesota

three letters, octavo and quarto, 10 pages, in very good, clean and legible condition.

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Louis Malesherbes Goldsborough (1805-1877), naval officer, assumed command on September 23, 1861 of the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron off Hampton Roads, Virginia. There he awaited the appearance of the formidable ironclad Virginia, which the Confederacy was building from the hull of the USS Merrimack at Norfolk. Early in 1862 Goldsborough's proposal to capture Roanoke Island, North Carolina, resulted in a combined army-navy expedition, the army commanded by General Ambrose Burnside and a fleet of some 100 vessels commanded by Goldsborough. Goldsborough's squadron destroyed the small defending Confederate naval force and provided protective fire for the 12,000-man unit that landed and secured the island. Despite his receiving the Thanks of Congress for his victory at Roanoke Island, Goldsborough was criticized by Navy Secretary Gideon Welles for not being at Hampton Roads when the Virginia attacked vessels of the North Atlantic Squadron there, on the 8th and 9th of March. Although he returned to Hampton Roads immediately upon learning of the danger, Goldsborough failed to lure the ironclad to deep water, where he believed he would have had a better chance of destroying it. His failure to act more aggressively resulted in severe criticisms from both the public and the press.

January 28, 1862, U.S. Ship Minnesota, Hampton Roads, Van Brunt to L.M. Goldsborough

"My Dear Goldsborough,

I recd your two letters of the 22d & 26th last evening they relieved us all from great anxiety this is the first we have heard from you since you left & as the weather was so unfavourable I had doubts of the safety of some of your small craft - all your vessels have left here with the exception of the "White Hall" she is at "Newport News" pronounced unseaworthy.

Last evening 16 contrabands stole a boat from "Sorrels Point" and got on board one of our tugs & are now on board this ship. They state that there about 2500 men there and they think about 5000 in and around Norfolk - 1200 left for Roanoke Island.

They also say that they were told that the Merrimac came out of dock yesterday & that it is their intention to capture the "Cumberland & Congress" - we shall see, I have my doubts, we are keeping a sharp look out for her -

I have no doubts of your success - the whole country is waiting anxiously for news from your expedition - ...

Give us the earliest news of your victory & do not let the army rob you of what you are just entitled - None will rejoice more heartily at your success than your old friend & messmate..."

February 7, 1862, U. S. Minnesota, Van Brunt to Goldsborough

"My dear Goldsborough,

Capt. Poor who is now with me says there is no "9 inch shrapnel" here - I will see Marston and advise his sending one of the Tugs to Annapolis for some.

Nothing new here I send your mail by the R. I. she sails in about one hour and I have only rec'd your letter from Hatteras within the last hour so that I have no time to do more than to say God Bless and protect you - in haste..."

February 11, 1862, U.S. Ship Minnesota, Hampton Roads, Van Brunt to L.M. Goldsborough

"My dear Goldsborough,

We are upon "tinder hooks" waiting to hear of your success - we have all sorts of reports, such as that you had been repulsed twice & that the fight was still going and yesterday we heard by "Flag of Truce" that you had possession of "Roanoke Island" - after a desperate fight. You may imagine how anxious all your friends must feel. We believe that you have had a fight & that you have succeeded but we want particulars & from reliable authority - two or three vessels have sailed from here for Hatteras without my knowledge. This I trust will not occur again as I have given orders to the officer sent for the mail to go to the Quartermasters office daily & enquire if there is any vessel about to sail for Hatteras - You must remember that the eyes of the whole country is upon your expedition. But it provokes me to see it constantly call'd the "Burnside" Expedition I had an opportunity of speaking my mind very fully a few days since to the correspondent of the N.Y. "Times" I told him that I had just read an article in one of the N.Y. papers giving an account of the landing at Hatteras and not one word was said of the Navy, he promised that that should not occur in any of his communications full justice should be done to the Navy.

Thursday 13th the Stars & Stripes arrived this morng at 11 o'clk bringing us the welcome news of your success Henry VB leaves this evening with your dispatches, as soon as the news arriv'd I call'd all hands & told them the news - they gave 3 hearty cheers & 3 for the Flag Officer - we are all with you heart & hand - I send this with all the letters &c &c this evening in a steamer bound to Hatteras - We will send everything which we have here which you require by Worden, as soon as it can be placed on board. The "Young America" has gone to Annapolis for ordnance stores & I hope will bring full supplys.

Tell Case I will attend to all his requests - be assured. I have omitted no opportunity to communicate with you. ... You must not stop until you have taken all the towns you reach - We must have Norfolk, we are ready if it can be done. - The "Merrimac" will come out of dock on Monday, so says report - if she comes out of Elizabeth river I will endeavor to prevent her returning & if possible bring her down to Old-Point - we shall see. - I understand from good authority that her armament is 8 - 9 inch smooth bore guns for broad side - & one Ryfle [sic] gun of 11,000 lbs weight on bow & stern 300 men & 12 Lieuts. I intend to go alongside & grapple her.

I send the late papers which will give you the gallant exploit of Frost, this together with the news of your victory comes in most excellent time as the financial affairs are now consideration in congress..."

American National Biography, vol. 9, pp., 202-203

Dictionary of American Biography, vol. IV, pp., 365-366