Petersburg, Va., October 22, 1862.
[Governor VANCE, Raleigh, N. C.:]
DEAR GOVERNOR: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of yesterday.
Let me first assure you that you have not the interest and welfare of the people of your State more at heart than I have.
2nd. That after the departure of General Lee to Northern Virginia North Carolina was stripped of all her available forces to meet the enemy on the Potomac.
3rd. That on the threatening advance of the enemy at Warrenton and Lower Potomac I was directed to hold all the regiments at points on the line of the railroads to move up here, and in this condition they now mostly remain. It was my wish to rapidly mass my forces and strike blows at different points where the enemy were in small force in different parts of your State, but the requirements of General Lee have, together with the accumulation of the troops of the enemy at Suffolk, prevented my doing so.
4th. Finding the enemy not disposed to advance, some days since I sent orders to Colonel [W. F.] Martin (Seventeenth Regiment) to hold his troops ready to move on Plymouth; that Colonel Cantwell would join him, &c., and not to disclose the movement to any human being. I did not know the colonel was on leave. The orders to both him and Cantwell were on the outside marked "Private," lest some staff officer should open them. The results was Martin's "Private" letter and Cantwell's must have been forwarded to them, and neither being with their regiments nothing has been heard from them.
5th. On the 20th, Radcliffe's regiment was ordered up in place of Cantwell's, and Colonel Radcliffe has been directed to move with his regiment and Martin, Washington, and Tyrrell Counties an opportunity to bring out their provisions, &c. As secrecy is the should of success in cases of this kind, I told no one expect one officer on my staff, who did part of the writing for me. I presume Radcliffe will move the last of this week, or early next week, on Plymouth, and I hope with successful results. About this you had better say nothing, for between gossip and the newspapers nothing can be done without the enemy finding it out before it can be executed.
6th. There were some complaints came to me respecting the withdrawal of forces from Onslow County. The same cavalry force is there under Captain Ward that has been there since the fall of New Berne except two companies of Partisan Rangers. When these rangers are disciplined in the camps of instruction at Garysburg we will have a force for the position that can move rapidly from point to point.
7th. I have been anxious to have the rivers obstructed, but have had no means to do it. Finally engineers have been sent to examine them. Had they been ordered to report to me I should now have had them on the Roanoke River at work. I can only say, in conclusion, that I will do all that can be done to protect the people, at the same time confront the threatening forces of the enemy where they are in large force. The forces in Suffolk now are 25,000. [This] holds most of my troops, from necessity, here and at Franklin.
I will be most happy to confer with you at any time and will thank you to write to me freely your views on any matters concerning our common welfare.
Yours, very truly,
S. G. FRENCH,