Captain Lawrence, stationed in Pitt, says that the enemy get the Richmond papers and other news regularly.
Satterthwaite, a member of the State Convention, lives within the enemy's lines unmolested, and has been allowed to come through our lines to Greenville whenever he wishes it. This is only one of many cases.
I fear, as you suggest, that Colonel Williams is not in all respects fully qualified for the position he holds, but the other two colonels there are much less so. In fact, Williams complains of their want of discipline, &c. The greatest difficulty, however, arises from the small force on the lines. In Pitt there are two cavalry companies, divided by the Tar River, and they are not sufficient to prevent intercourse, even if the officers were efficient, which they are not.
Negroes are escaping rapidly, probably a million of dollars' worth weekly in all. It is estimated that one-third of the negroes in the State are east of this line of railroad, and gentlemen complain, with some reason, that that section of the State is in danger of being ruined if these things continue.
It strikes me that, if we had force sufficient to accomplish the object, negroes and other movable property of value within or near the enemy's lines should be brought away and intercourse prohibited. I think it unwise to attempt it, however, until there is an effective force, because an alarm might cause the enemy to run away negroes more rapidly than they are doing. If the force could be had, a regiment of infantry might be well employed in the vicinity of Greenville, Pitt. I think Washington could be taken; but probably the best line of attack would be from Williamston, in Martin, there being no stream to cross.
If there were two or three reliable regiments here they might be moved by rail to Tarborough, Kinston, Wilmington, and Weldon, and could thus aid either in striking or defending those points.
If the separate cavalry companies could be united into regiments or battalions under proper officers they might be made effective, while at present they are almost useless.
I had written the above, general, when your dispatch reached me.
If the companies of Partisan Rangers are collected at this place they leave a number of the richest counties (eastern) entirely unprotected, and those having most slaves. If the enemy are allowed to establish themselves within 30 miles of the railroad, they can by cavalry dashes constantly interrupt it; whereas if we can confine them to the coast, we save the negroes and the growing corn crop, as well as secure the road.
I suppose I must send all applications for furlough to your headquarters, no matter how urgent the case.
The telegraph wire to Kinston has been interrupted for an hour; what I get I will send by telegraph, if worth it. I have felt it my duty, general, to lay before you the late dispatches from Kinston, as they come from persons said to be reliable. While I hope there may not be a formidable attack, yet if one were made, i fear that it would not be successfully resisted.
My anxiety is increased because I cannot just now either ride a horse or walk. Coming from Petersburg inflamed my foot somewhat, but it is getting better, and, unless hurt again, in three days I can be on horseback, I think. I then hope to get matters in better shape.
I hope you will excuse the frequency and length of my letters.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
T. L. CLINGMAN,