therefore to run on for a day and lay the whole matter before you, which I can do very briefly should it meet your wishes to permit me to do so.
Please to telegraph your reply to General Dix, at Fortress Monroe,
where I will have an officer to bring it to me.
Very respectfully and truly,
J. G. FOSTER,
HEADQUARTERS EIGHTEENTH ARMY CORPS,
New Berne, N. C., May 5, 1863.
Major General H. W. HALLECK, General-in-Chief U. S. Army:
GENERAL: I have the honor to acknowledge receipt of your letter of April 27.
My idea of an attack on Wilmington was to take and hold Smith's Island as a basis of supplies, &c., and I still incline to so doing, though information shows that it cannot now be done as easily as it could have been then, the enemy having established a post there and erected a battery. (This information is not deemed certain.) I will attempt anything I am directed to, but my opinion is that my force is utterly inadequate to accomplish any outside work, and is merely sufficient for present defense. Information shows that General Hill is still in our front with his forces (barring one brigade, Garnett's, which I have no information of), and is threatening. Troops from Wilmington threaten Morehead City (our depot of supplies) and the line of the railroad, the defense of which I have given to General Heckman and his brigade, 2,100 men (my old troops), recently arrived from the Department of the South. General Heckman has as much as he can do to protect that line, and I have ordered him to stay and do so. Intercepted correspondence shows the plans somewhat of the enemy and shows the sending of a pontoon train for crossing the White Oak and New Rivers, necessary to an attack on Morehead. In fact we are threatened at all points, and though I feel perfectly confident at every point I know that constant vigilance is required and also the presence of every man now here. If I had 5,000 disposable men I would undertake Smith's Island, and I think with success; and in that light let me respectfully say, though at the risk of seeming importunate (which intention, at least, I disclaim), that if the brigade of Brigadier General T. G. Stevenson could be ordered back to me I would be in a position to attack Smith's Island. General Stevenson's brigade consist of two regiments of my old brigade and three other veteran regiments, and is now in the Department of the South. Of course to occupy and fortify a post my guns, ordnance tools, &c., would be necessary, and all that I took down for the Charleston expedition are yet afloat and untouched in Beaufort Harbor. These would have to be ordered back.
I must in this connection recall to your mind that by the 1st day of July the effective in this department will not be more than 5,000 men, as 500 artillery are now being mustered out, their term of service (two years) having expired, and in June twelve of my fullest regiments are to be mustered out, their term of service then expiring (nine months). This fact shows what I can do with my effective force, and my reasons for urging the return of some of my troops.
I have the honor to be, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
J. G. FOSTER,