On February 15 I addressed to General Huger the following:
NEAR NORTHWEST BRIDGE, VA.,
February 15, 1862.
Major General B. HUGER, Commanding, &c.:
SIR: I have forward all extra baggage and stores (saving just what is necessary of commissary stores) to the Great Bridge. Had determined to take post a while at the Northwest River, but finding no quarters, and the weather being very bad in which to expose my men, I concluded it best to fall back to Great Bridge, there to erect quarters, intrench myself, and thence move upon the enemy in case he attempts to penetrate the country and seize on the little canal leading from Northwest River to the Dismal Swamp Canal. I shall try to obstruct Northwest River and Tull Creek, and will fight the enemy at both points. If the passes or crosses south of me before I can obstruct him, I will block the streams and canals behind him and harass his rear.
I beg you to order Colonel J. Lucius Davis, at Garysburg, to send three, if he can (two, at all events), of his companies of cavalry, by the shortest route, via South Mills or Sawyer's Creek, to me at North West River Bridge. With his remaining companies (six, if he has them, or as many as he has) he will take the most eligible position northeast of Edenton, as near that place as prudent, so as to communicate both with South Mills or Colonel Wright's command and mine.
Captain Belsches' company is overtaxed in vedette service from Currituck Court-House Norfolk and to Elizabeth City and South Mills. I ask that you will order Colonel Davis to scout the enemy's cavalry, said to be 150, landed at Edenton, to their saddle-girths. He must not let them penetrate the country beyond cannon range.
The enemy has left the Currituck Canal Bridge and Elizabeth City. No report of them to-day. They said at the bridge their purpose was to attack the rear of Norfolk from several points simultaneously.
I will arrange the defenses of Great Bridge. Send Colonel Henningsen on there to-day. He joined me yesterday. I follow with a rear guard of infantry, in charge of baggage and stores, to-morrow morning.
My march is necessarily scattered to get quarters. As soon as I make matters safe and systematic at Great Bridge I will return and establish a post at Northwest and Falls Bridges, obstruct these streams, and endeavor to join Colonel Davis. Cavalry is our only means of communication now.
I inclose orders to Colonel Davis, which I hope you will approve.
I received your acceptance of General Burnside's proposition, and forwarded it to Elizabeth City immediately, in charge of Captain Belsches, having no steam-tugs to convey it to the island.
With great respect, your obedient servant,
HENRY A. WISE,
P. S.-From personal inspection and all reliable information it is certain there is an abundance of forage an provisions in the country between this and Edenton.
Meeting General Huger here at the Great Bridge on the 19th, he expressed his surprise that I should have fallen back to this point, after having left me full discretion to select whatever position I could occupy most usefully; after warning me that the enemy might pass around my position at Currituck Canal Bridge; after being regularly informed of my intention to fall back, and after knowing that the enemy had already appeared at the North River end of the Currituck section of the canal, might remove the obstructions there, and by passing up Currituck Sound cut me off sure enough, or might attack the Northwest or Little Canal and gain the Dismal Swamp Canal, or land at North Landing and seize this section of the Albemarle and Chesapeake Canal and seriously threaten the rear of Norfolk, and after being informed that there were no quarters for my men at a very bad season, and no defensible position by a small force between this and Currituck Canal Bridge.!
The same day (19th) I received an order from the War Department, to which I replied as follows: