Washington. I never so regarded it myself, but on the contrary always expressed as my firm opinion, in the most public manner and with the intention to diffuse it, that you could come out whenever you pleased and also bring your command, with perhaps some loss, and that I fully shared your confidence of success. I used this simile discreetly with some of those persons interested in running the barricade for you, in connection with such remarks as that the enemy let the Ceres go by without firing at her and probably would let anything else go in, to encourage these persons in making the passage of the blockade.
Was the question raised regarding my authority to give orders? If so, when, by whom, and under what circumstances?
The question was not raised that I know of regarding your authority to command the troops in North Carolina. If I had any talk on the topic it was in private with General Palmer or General Spinola, and was either for my own or their amusement and not for any other purpose. If in your meaning of the words of the inquiry you are of the opinion that the circumstances in which you were at Washington of themselves raised the question, you must admit that I would have been absent-minded not to think of it.
Trusting that I have fulfilled the promise with which I began, I am, general, very respectfully, your order servant,
HEADQUARTERS EIGHTEENTH ARMY CORPS,
New Berne, May 8, 1863.
Brigadier General HENRY PRINCE,
Commanding District of the Pamlico, Washington, N. C.:
GENERAL: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of April 26 in reply to mine of the 21st.
It is of course desirable in all military operations that the pros and cons should be fully weighed and the operation contemplated be made as certain as possible; that as a rule. But exigencies do occur when it is a duty to act even though the risk of failure is greater than the chance of success; this as an exception; and under this latter hypothesis I consider the attempt to relieve Washington to have been. I can therefore only regret that the attempt to storm Hill's Point was not made, the more so, as a reconnaissance made by Captain Douglas, of the Fifth Rhode Island Volunteers, showed that Hill's Point might have been carried. Information shows that only one brigade was within near reaching distance of that Point.
I fear that your judgment against the feasibility of attacking the place was too generally disseminated, and that the effect on subordinate officers and men was to discourage and seriously impair the morale so essential to success.
This is written, general, to acknowledge your report, and to express my regrets that your views were not mine; or, rather, that you did not recognize the emergency as one justifying and calling for some risks and greater efforts than were made.
I remain, general, respectfully, yours,
J. G. FOSTER,