ering and collecting information from personas of all colors respecting the country between New Berne and Washington and were discussing in the most perfect privacy whatever subjects in connection therewith it pleased us to mention, it having been stated by me to them that nothing which was uttered that day by them or by me should be considered an opinion, but as a mere suggestion to thought and memory. No reserve was observed when the persons named were in, and no other person was treated with any part of such confidence. I am forced to suppose that this working with my staff is the foundation of the question, if it has any, strange as it may seem, because I cannot imagine any other.
Did you, publicly or privately, in consultation with the commanding officer, give your opinion, similar to that expressed to me in a letter, that the garrison at Washington were in an eel-pot and the mouth closed, and so convey the impression that it was inexpedient to incur much risk in endeavoring to raise the siege, accepting the surrender as a foregone conclusion, and that the troops that should march to my rescue would in all probability be cut off?
I have never held such opinions, and have never expressed any such to you or to any one. I never had impressions resembling such as you mention above and never conveyed any such to any one, publicly or privately. If I had done so publicly, as I have no right to do, the information would be at your service; if privately, as I have the most perfect right to do to a commanding officer, it would be sacred with him.
There were two commanding officers whom I consulted with, General Palmer, commanding the department in your absence at Washington, with whom I was bound to consult as the commanding officer; the other was General Spinola, whom I relieved in command on the Pamlico River, which fact placed me on similar terms with him to a certain degree. I was habitually frank with them, and if my frankness is partly exposed I submit to you that it is not my fault. They are proper persons for my freest intercourse on public matters. The ideas I may have expressed on those matters to the commanding officer of the department in the form of advice, crude surmises, or partly conceived thoughts for the purpose of eliciting an exchange of impressions, or for persuasion, or conversation merely in that intercourse, the freedom of which is equally sanctioned by discretion and honor and the good of the service, are not subject o interrogatories, in which they are liable to misconstruction, for the public eye. It is my freedom to express myself according to the inclination of the moment or the final decision of my judgment to the officer in command, with whom I am in customary association, on the current affairs which engage us, untrammeled by the supposition that either he or his confidential staff officer will expose my remarks anywhere. I shall only hold myself responsible to the public, and then I will substantiate the correctness of the motives actuating my words in the broadest, highest, and purest meaning of a motive; for I will never speak by any other, however agreeable it might be for me to do so. I shall not, therefore, here review my and their ideas exchanges in private conversations. Doing so imperfectly would be as unjust to them as it would be to me. I may say in general, however, that in discussing a proposed military operation I habitually make every supposition of success or failure, and more especially of failure, that my ingenuity can devise, as the only means of preparing myself or assisting any one else to prepare properly and fully to conduct it.
The eel pot simile I used only in the sense in which I used it to you, viz, as suggesting the manner in which I presumed the rebels regarded