have I doubt if he has more than three or four regiments in New Berne, and on Monday last there were but five or six steamers at the wharves. It is believe by General Branch that their army is encamped below the town and across the Trent, which is 2,000 yards wide, and on which they have destroyed the bridges as high up as Trenton. They have established a ferry over it at New Berne, but permit no citizen, under any pretense, to pass over. I have sent secret agents to ascertain, if possible, whether they are there or not. I am waiting most anxiously their report. The inclosed sketch will show you the supposed position of the enemy and its surroundings.*
I went yesterday to examine into the position and condition of the army under General Branch. I was assured by the colonels that there was no demoralization, and that the men were tolerably well supplied and most anxious to advance. The position they occupy, 7 miles this side of Kinston, is too for from the enemy, and I shall order General Ransom, with his brigade, to advance 5 or 6 miles beyond Kinston to some point from whence he can more closely watch the enemy. Instead of sending General Anderson back to Wilmington I have given him a brigade. I did so because General French was already there, and perfectly acquainted with the particular kind of duty required there. If Wilcox's brigade and the First North Carolina Cavalry are subject to my orders I shall let them remain at Weldon for the present, and authorize the commanding officer of that department to use them if the enemy makes his appearance in that direction. I have ordered six companies who have been drilled at heavy artillery to report to General French in Wilmington. This will make the batteries there secure against their Navy, and I hope to have timely notice before they can land to send troops from here to give him battle.
The Governor of North Carolina has detained the arms sent to me until he can hear from you on the subject of using them for arming certain regiments that he has organized in Raleigh. It would be a thousand times better if those regiments were sent to me here, in order that they may be properly brigaded and instructed. If possible, send General Whiting to report to me.
I am, General, very respectfully,
TH. H. HOLMES,
GOLDSBOROUGH, March 28, 1862.
General R. E. LEE,
MY DEAR SIR: Every appearance indicates that the enemy does not design to advance in this direction at present, but rather that he is seeking to possess himself of the counties along the coast and to invest Fort Macon. If an attack is made on Wilmington I believe it will be by other troops than those under Burnside, for I am assured that their transports draw too much water to cross the Swash Channel when loaded, and that they were three weeks entering the sound, having been obliged to unload them before doing so. I have very little doubt that the force here is able to retake New Berne, but I fear to move until it is ascertained that they will not be required at Wilmington or some other new point of attack. Please inform me what you think and wish about it. I am oppressed with the responsibility upon me. The
*Omitted as of no present value.