Immediately on my return I saw General Prince's Lieutenant Ordway, who gave me to understand that General Prince had made every preparation to follow the command. I was told that an ambulance with his baggage was at this door. I then believed that he was going immediately.
I think it proper for me to state here that even had I known that General Prince was not going to join the command I should not then have gone myself, for I had determined in my own mind that General Foster needed only men and supplies of provisions and ammunition, and left assured that I could get them to him by the way of the river while the demonstration was being made by land. I had determined that if any officer should arrive to take command of New Berne I would take a steamer loaded with men and supplies and go to the blockade and see them through. General Wessells arrived here on the 9th and I left with the Escort on the next day. The delay in getting this steamer through the blockade was by no means unavoidable, but it was a delay for which I was in no way responsible. Three times the steamer was ready to move and she was stopped. The first time on the evening of my arrival at the blockade by the refusal of Lieutenant-Commander McCann (the senior naval officer there) to assist, at night; the second time, on the next morning, by the fog, which was so dense on the river that third time, the next night, by the mist and rain, that prevented any movement on the river.
The safe arrival eventually of the steamer at Washington accomplished, I was satisfied, more than could have been attained in any other way, and I was satisfied that my judgment was correct and that I had acted wisely in the matter.
With regard to the third interrogatory--
Was the question ever raised in any consultation or council of commanding officers as to my authority to give orders for movement of troops; if so, when, and under what circumstances?-
I will state that I never presumed to call any "council or consultation of officers" to discuss plain orders sent to me by the commanding general. His orders issued from Washington were just as much obeyed and respected by me as they would have been had they been issued from this place.
It is true, however, that I was an unwilling listener to several private conversations in which the "propriety" of sending too many troops away from this place, or the "policy" of abandoning everything to the saving of Washington, was spoken of, and doubts expressed as to who under the circumstances was in command of the department. I took no part in any such discussions any more than to inform every person that the orders of the commanding general would be obeyed, even if they were to abandon New Berne and everything in it.
I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
I. N. PALMER,
HEADQUARTERS EIGHTEENTH ARMY CORPS, New Berne, N. C., April 22, 1863.
Rear-Admiral S. P. LEE,
Commanding North Atlantic Blockading Squadron:
ADMIRAL: I have the honor to acknowledge receipt of your letter of the 17th, on the subject of the occupation by our troops of too many