location of the troops, &c., I beg to refer to the report of Brigadier-General Anderson, dated the 13th instant,* and which was forwarded to you through these headquarters. As General Anderson will be in Richmond to-day, he will be able to explain in person anything not understood in that communication. In case he is attacked, his defenses destroyed, and his troops driven from their positions, it is understood that he is to fall back in the direction of Fayetteville, with the view of checking the advance of the enemy in that direction. It is hoped and believed that his defenses are sufficient, but he is sadly deficient in troops.
Conceiving the town of New Berne, the point most likely to be attacked, I have assembled in its vicinity as large a body of troops as in my power. They are under the command of Brigadier General L. O'B. Branch, who also commands the District of the Pamlico. Batteries have been erected on the Neuse below the town and the river effectually blocked. These batteries are open and the guns mounted in barbette, but it is hoped they will not fail to drive off the fleet of gunboats should they attempt to reduce them. Below these batteries are breastworks running from the river to the swamps on Brice's Creek, which are believed to be impassable. The breastworks are thought to be strong enough to enable I regret that I have no sketch of these works to transmit. You will perceivable that a large increase to the force at New Berne should be made to place them upon an equality with such a force as attacked Roanoke Island.
In case they are driven from their positions they are to fall back upon the line of the Atlantic and North Carolina Railroad, and take up the first defensible position, not yet determined upon, which may confine the enemy as close to New Berne as practicable.
The batteries at Harkers' and Huggins' Islands have been withdrawn, and the garrison at Fort Macon reduced to five companies of artillery, the largest number that could be sheltered inside the fort in case of siege. The fort has a supply of seven months' provisions, and its commander is of opinion that he can hold it as long as powder and his provisions last. A large supply of powder is required to meet the contingencies of a siege.
The Pamlico River is protected by batteries some 8 miles below the town of Washington. They are considered sufficient to beat off the gunboats, but the force there is not adequate to contend with a large land force. In case of the loss of the batteries the troops will retreat up the Tar River in the direction of Greenville.
The troops heretofore stationed in Hyde County have been withdrawn, as it was considered impudent to keep them, there being but one road leading out of the county which could readily be seized by the enemy, thus cutting off all retreat. A local company still remains for such service as it may be able to render in preventing servile insurrection. Five companies taken from Hyde have been sent to New Berne; the remainder are at Washington.
You will perceive that the force under my command is very inadequate to the defense of so extensive a coast against an enemy who has possession of our sounds and can direct his large columns against any point he may elect.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
R. C. GATLIN,
*See p. 431.