advantage to him, and the means to drive him out must be so extraordinary and so disproportionate to those now needed to defend it, that I fear we should be altogether unable to regain the place. The Cape Fear, navigable to Fayetteville, gives him a barrier on the south impassable to us, near the city especially, where the river, separating into several channels, forms directly opposite the broad and swampy rice lands of Eagle's Island. The Northeast Branch, on the other hand, with the great Holly Shelter Swamps extending along its east bank for 20 or 30 miles and close to the Sounds, would entirely defend him (taken in connection with his inexhaustible means of support and re-enforcement from the seaward) against attack from the northward.. All the means in our power, therefore, or rather all that can be spared from points equally menaced, though perhaps not so important, should be put forward at once. To retain this position 10,000 effective men, with four to six field batteries, is the least force I can recommend as the supporting corps for its defense. If this cannot be had we must trust to God in what we have, small as it is, and the blindness of the enemy. Why he neglect this place and struck at New Berne is more than I can tell. T may add that the danger of its reduction is more imminent from the disorders consequent on the pestilence which has desolated the unfortunate city. Preparations have been suspended, he garrison reduced and withdrawn, the workshops deserted, transportation rendered irregular and uncertain, provisions, forage, and supplies exhausted. Unless therefore more speedy measures for re-enforcement and relief be adopted I have great apprehensions of a successful coup de main on the part of the enemy. Even a lodgment or the successful passage of one of the forts by even one or two of his gunboats would be a most serious matter, and as things now stand there is little to prevent such disaster. Having been assigned to this important charge but a few days since I am not yet prepared t say whether the dispositions adopted are altogether such as I would recommend. No doubt in general they are the best which circumstances would permit. No doubt in general they are best which circumstances would permit. It is now, however, too late to undertake changes, perhaps also to make additions, unless in the all important matter of the supporting troops, and that I have hurriedly endeavored to set forth.
I conclusion I beg leave to refer you to a communication of this date to Major-General Smith relative to the securing of the large amount of rice, &c., in the vicinity.
Respectfully urging these remarks upon your attention, and requesting their consideration by the President, I remain, very respectfully your obedient servant,
W. H. C. WHITING,
NOVEMBER 20, 1862.
Referred to Major General G. W. Smith.
By order of the Secretary of War:
JOHN A. CAMPBELL.
It is certainly desirable to increase the force at Wilmington, but at present I have not the means of doing it. An extract from General Whiting's letter to me has been forwarded to General Lee, but under present circumstances I have reason to believe that he has no force to spare. General Whiting's remarks about the rice in his vicinity have