You are probably aware that the expedition was intended to go to Wilmington, in General Foster's department, and that after it was prepared to move the monitor sank, and it was found the other iron-clad vessels could not cross the bar, and that the Government, in order not to lose the preparations made, ordered General Foster to co-operate in the contemplated attack upon Charleston. This purpose was unknown to any of the command until after the sailing of the vessels; on the contrary, they believed Wilmington to be the object of the movement, and were assured that they would return to North Carolina.
General Foster arrived at Hilton Head on the 2nd of February at 9 a. m., and remained until the 10 at 8 a. m., during which time General Hunter did not, so far as I am able to learn, exercise any command over General Foster or any of his troops.
Three hours after that departure of General Foster an aide-de-camp of General Hunter delivered communications, of which copies are hereunto attached, marked Nos. 1 and 2,* both dated before the departure of General Foster, but addressed to me, the one requesting a return of the forces of General Foster's command as necessary to make up the Tenth Army Corps' return, which request had also been made of General Terry.
At 1 p. m. I received your note indicating General Huter's intention to review the troops of General Foster at 12 m. on the 11th, and at the same time there was delivered to me the series of orders from the headquarters of the Department of the South. At 3 p. m. General Potter, chief of General Foster's staff, and myself called upon General Hunter and explained the unfortunate position in which we were placed by the discovery that a full understanding did not exist between Generals Hunter and Foster, as supposed by the later at the time of his departure.
At 5.45 p. m. an aide delivered your request that I should name a colonel of my command to be detached by General Hunter on a military commission, and was instructed to await the answer.
At 7.40 p. m. a request was received that I should furnish copies of certain orders of General Foster, and at the same time there were handed a copy and original communication of General Saxton, with a request that certain criminals should be punished.
I cannot but express a regret that some one of these requests had not been made of General Foster, or some other means adopted during the eight days have been determined, and thus have saved me the unpleasant duty of upholding in his temporary absence the position assumed by General Foster and expected by the officers and soldiers of the Eighteenth Army Corps, who may find themselves transferred to another department in direct opposition to the representations made to them by their favorite commander, that this absence from their old comrades in arms would be but a temporary one.
I inclose herewith the orders, returns, and other information requested by you. An unqualified compliance with your several requests would soon be considered a direct acknowledgment that I considered the command of General Foster merged in that of General Hunter, which I respectfully decline to do. But, the contrary, in order to sustain the position in which I am placed, disclaiming any disrespect to Major-General Hunter, my duty compels me to protest that the course indicated by General Hunter will cause a direct failure on my part to carry out the orders of my immediate superior officer, indicated by him, and of those
*Not found, but see Alpine to Naglee, p. 396.