2. There is now on the Cape Fear upward of 300,000 bushels of excellent rice in the barns of the planters between the city and the lower rice lands. The crops has not been thrashed, owing to various obstacles. It will be very valuable to us in every way, both for food and forage, and should not be suffered to fall into the hands of the enemy; should there be danger of that I shall destroy it. In the mean time I suggest the purchase of the whole or a greater portion by the Commissary and Quartermaster's Departments. The planters will sell to the Government now at a far more reasonable price than to private purchasers, and as rice, like everything, else, is rising in value it will be well to secure this important article of food at once. Please to call the attention of the Secretary of War and Commissary-General to this.
3rd. Please to send me the authority, which from time to time has been issued to generals in command, relative to the securing or destruction of private property to prevent its falling into the hands of the enemy. I refer especially to crops-cotton, naval stores, lumber, &c., of which he stands so much in need. I require this, as I shall at once take all means in my power to secure these things on the Cape Fear.
4th. Instructions as to the proclamation of martial law in districts menaced by the enemy.
Please address me at Wilmington.
Very respectfully and obediently.
W. H. C. WHITING,
CAPE FEAR DISTRICT,
Warsaw, N. C., November 14, 1862.
Honorable GEORGE W. RANDOLPH,
Secretary of War, Richmond, Va.:
SIR: I beg leave to call the attention of the Department to the position of Wilmington and its vital importance in this war. There are now but three great harbors on our coast not in possession of the enemy-Charleston, Mobile, and Wilmington. Of these, Charleston, though its capture would be a severe blow to us and an occasion of great triumph to the enemy and have serious effect on the war at home and abroad, is not a point of such strategic importance in the present position of affairs as the other two. Their capture destroys two great arteries of communication now more than ever necessary since the loss of the Mississippi; cuts two great lines of telegraph; renders Charleston of little avail to us, should it prove impregnable, as an importing point for war material, and affords by rivers and roads most effective basis by which the enemy may extend their power to the interior, endangering at once the armies of the east and the west, on which now the hopes of the country rest. These two points, Mobile and Wilmington, are, from local circumstances, exceedingly difficult to defend, the latter especially.
I speak advisedly, from long service at all of these cities in the engineer service of the late United States. Though nearly all that may be said on this subject in regard to Wilmington will apply locally as well as generally to Mobile, it is with the former I now have to do. It is of the last importance to hold the port. In the fall and winter the blockade is exceedingly difficult, owing to Cape Fear, a dangerous point on the coast, which, with its extensive shoals, extends far to seaward between the two entrances to the harbor. The prevalence of southeast weather at the main entrance, while it is very dangerous for vessels outside, forces them to the northward of the Cape and gives easy access to