It would not have been expected that a general of your experience would undertake at his own discretion, without orders and without notice to the Department, a hazardous expedition, with "fears of failure" for want of adequate transportation, and it is therefore hoped that the statement in your letter in the last respect may be unfounded.
If, however, the force of the enemy at Charleston be so large as you estimate your expedition, even if it should fail as to lists main purpose-the capture of Charleston-may accomplish and important object by occupying with a small force a much greater body of the enemy that but for your operations would be employed against us at Richmond.
In the absence of any information from you as to the kind or amount of transportation you require I directed all that can be speedily procured to be sent you, and hope you will order back what you may not need.
General Saxton takes out this dispatch and you will doubtless be glad to meet him.
Serious complaints have been made against General Benham touching his courage and good conduct, copies of which will be immediately sent to you.
I shall be glad to have frequent reports from you, and wishing every success to your command, I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
EDWIN M. STANTON,
Secretary of War.
HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF THE SOUTH,
Hilton Head, S. C., June 19, 1862.
Brigadier General HORATIO G. WRIGHT,
U. S. Army, James Island, S. C.:
SIR: You are assigned to the command of all the troops on James Island and at Legareville. You will not attempt to advance toward Charleston or Fort Johnson till largely re-enforced and until you receive express orders from these headquarters.
You will select a neck of land a short distance in advance of the old battery, where you can have a flanking fire from the gunboats in the Stono and on the creek and fortify it strongly. You will repair the causeway to Cole's Island, and shelter your stores and men as far as practicable by houses taken from any of the plantations on the StoNumbers You will make seasonable requisitions on the quartermaster, commissary, medical director, and ordnance officer at Hilton Head for all necessary supplies, and report to these headquarters the state of your command by every opportunity.
Should you deem your present position untenable you will immediately make all the necessary dispositions for abandoning James Island and John's Island, sending off in the first place all your sick and all your stores.
Your front being completely covered by the gunboats of the Navy, you can make the retrograde movement, should you deem it necessary, without losing a man or a pound of supplies. As soon as the stores are removed all the troops not sailing in the first detachment of transports should be at once removed to the west bank of the Stono, at Legareville. Should you determine to abandon the Stono you will have one regiment at North Edisto, and you will immediately inform me of your decision, that I may send you all the transportation in my power.
Very respectfully, your most obedient servant,