and the railroads terminating here. I beg leave respectfully to ask your attention to that letter, and to say that I now deem a very considerable increase of force here indispensable to the safety of this command if it should be attacked by a large force by land, as it probably will be, if attacked at all.
This is the only point of importance on our Atlantic coast not hitherto threatened by the enemy, and it is reasonable to expect, in view of other expeditions, now fitting out by the enemy at the North, that an effort against this place will not be much longer postponed. That you may exactly appreciate the wants of this command I desire to call your attention to the disposition of the forces now here.
My attention has been directed principally to the defense of the approaches by water. In the works erected for this purpose I have a good degree of confidence, although I have been unable to procure all the armament required. Fort Caswell, on the south side of the Cape Fear River, about 30 miles from Wilmington, is manned by three unattached companies and one company of the Twentieth Regiment North Carolina Volunteers; aggregate strength of the garrison, 350 men. Fort Caswell is supported by the remaining nine companies of the Twentieth Regiment North Carolina Volunteers, stationed at Smithville or Fort Johnston, numbering in the aggregate 765 men.
At the Northern or New Inlet of the Cape Fear River the defenses consist of a battery on Zeeke's Island, manned by one company, of the aggregate strength 99, and Fort Fisher, manned by two unattached companies and one company of the Thirtieth Regiment North Carolina Volunteers, aggregate 250, supported by nine companies of the Thirtieth Regiment, aggregate of which is 770, and a battery of light artillery of four 12-pounders.
The coast of the district is watched by five companies of cavalry, of which there are "local defense" companies, and four are only partially or indifferently armed. Fort Fisher is about 25 miles from Wilmington; the road very difficult, on account of deep sand.
I have at Wilmington the Twenty-eighth Regiment North Carolina Volunteers, aggregate 993, and one battery of light artillery of six 6-pounders.
There are several points of Wilmington within 10 miles of the city where the enemy might land if he should choose not to attempt to pass the main batteries, but to cross with a large land force the narrow strip of land which separates the city from the ocean.
You will thus see that I have only one regiment and a light battery to oppose such a march of the enemy. Before I would withdraw the two regiments from the mouth of the river by land or water the enemy could reach the city or the railroad to Weldon, having to accomplish only 8 miles, while my regiments would have to move 30.
In this reference to my exposed line I leave out of view the coast south of Fort Caswell, on which he may land, march against Smithville and thence to Wilmington, on the right bank of the river. But were I able to concentrate all the men I have instantaneously at the point of attack which the enemy may select, you are still aware that my strength would not be sufficient to resist the force he will probably bring against us, judging by the past.
I therefore beg that Clingman's and Radcliffe's regiments and Moore's battery of the North Carolina troops, placed here for the defense of this point and sent by me to Port Royal, by direction of the honorable Secretary of War, under peculiar circumstances, be ordered back immediately. These troops were sent there with the belief that they