HDQRS. FIRST DIVISION EIGHTEENTH ARMY CORPS, New Berne, N. C., April 22, 1863.
Lieutenant Colonel SOUTHARD HOFFMAN,
A. A. G., Eighteenth Army Corps, New Berne, N. C.:
SIR: I have to acknowledge the receipt of communication from the commanding general of this department of the 21st instant, and in reply to the interrogatory--
Why was not a large force sent to General Prince, in the Pamlico River, as ordered in my letter of April 1, 1863, and why was not greater alacrity displayed in getting troops to General Prince?-
I have the honor to state that immediately on the receipt of the above instructions all the troops that could be possibly transported by the vessels then disposable in this harbor were put in readiness to leave to join General Prince. At that time a gale of wind was prevailing which had blown the water out of the river to such a degree that it was almost impossible for vessels to move around the harbor. The steamer Colyer, loaded with troops, was lying aground between this place and Washington, and the steamer Escort got fast aground in coming up to the dock here. However, four regiments were to be left at the blockade to be sent through, if possible, to Washington, by the way of the river, and that all the remaining force was to return to this place with General Prince, who was directed to take then all the available force from here and march across the country to Washington. It was my intention to obey the order or suggestion of the commanding general and to send to General Prince at least 5,000 men. The elements prevented this. There was no unnecessary delay on the part of any one. While waiting for the water in the river to rise I remained up nearly all night and visited the wharf twice after midnight, and while the troops were waiting to sail. Therefore I cannot see that there was a want of alacrity displayed in getting troops to General Prince.
In reply to the second interrogatory--
When my plan was changed, and orders were sent in my letter of April 5 to march across the country to raise the siege of Washington, why did you not go in command?-
I will respectfully state that in the letter referred to, of April, 5 the commanding general says:
General Prince returned to this place on the 6th, followed by all the troops on the 7th, as the naval officer in command at the blockade said it was impossible to get any troops through by way of the river. On the 8th all the available force was in readiness to move. Only (about) 3,000 effective men were retained here. The movement of the troops across the river was carried on all through the night of the 7th and 8th. General Prince was notified on the morning of the 8th that the troops were ready, but he reported himself unable to start with them. One of his aides, Lieutenant Ordway, come to my headquarters to ask for a boat to be placed at the disposition of General Prince, who he said would follow the command. The steamer Allison was ordered to be placed at his disposition immediately.
I proceeded across the river, informed General Spinola of the state of affairs, and remained there until the whole command had started.