prepared there, to be accompanied by a feint on Goldsborough but really intended for Wilmington. General Smith is fully possessed, from all he has learned, with the conviction of such design; and General French, without being, so decided that Wilmington is to be aimed at, shares the conviction that some serious blow in North Carolina is meditated. I think it very probable that on his late expedition Foster obtained information that encouraged him to some serious operation, and that he returned to Washington to urge and arrange for it.
There is said to be between political parties in North Carolina at this time much bitterness, and that no little disaffection to the Confederacy exists, and that adverse military events just now in the State might eventuate in very grave efforts to separate from the Confederacy and arrange with the Federal Government. I cannot credit this danger, but all accounts agree as to the existence of great discontent and complaint of desertion by the Government. This renders more important all means in our power to repel promptly any serious invasion. Under this feeling I have telegraphed General Beauregard to render all aid in his power to Wilmington. He has promised to do so, but thinks Goldsborough or Weldon more apt to be aimed at, and says in the present state of transportation on the Wilmington and Weldon road he does not deem it safe to send his troops farther than Wilmington. I have also allowed General Smith almost to strip this city, leaving here only some 2,500 or 2,700 men, of whom there are only 500 at Drewry's Bluff. I have counseled him instead of taking all the forces he is collecting (amounting to 10,000 or 12,000) to Goldsborough, as he intended, to have there only a brigade and concentrate the residue either at Weldon or Rocky Mount, so as to be ready to move readily either back toward Petersburg or on toward Goldsborough and Wilmington, as the enemy may move. With Beauregard's aid Wilmington could resist successfully, he (General (Smith) thinks, until he could arrive from Weldon. I think he will pursue this course, but he laments much the paucity of his numbers and wishes earnestly to be re-enforced. I feel no serious apprehension about this place, and yet, considering its importance, feel bound to guard against the contingency of a surprise. Your gallant officers, Stuart and Hampton, have shamed the enemy into more enterprise, as shown by their recent successful raid on the railroad at Bristol. A sudden dash of the forces on the Peninsula or from Suffolk might endanger us here. I should therefore feel better satisfied if we had a portio of your force, say some 5,000 or 10,000 men, here, or even as near as the Junction, whence by two roads they could be speedily brought in case of need. Having informed you, however, fully, I trust the decision to your judgment, as your command extends over the city and your are fully aware of the necessity of watching over and defending it.
I ought not to conclude without adding that General Samuel Jones has written to urge the return of a force to him equivalent to what he sent here under my late orders. The number was about 2,500. He would prefer other forces, as he thinks those sent by him would be more useful at a greater distance from their homes. The late spirit of enterprise manifested by the Federals in the attack on the railroad has alarmed him for exposed portions of Greenbrier and Monroe, which fertile counties will be almost indispensable to him in the spring. He thinks, too, that there will be an earnest effort to obtain possession of all the counties embraced in the newly-admitted State of West Virginia. I fear there is little prospect of returning his forces or their equivalent unless you can feel safe to spare them, at least until after the result of the threatened movements in North Carolina.