Wilmington, N. C., November 18, 1862.
Major General GUSTAVUS W. SMITH,
Commanding, &c., Richmond, Va.:
GENERAL: It appears now to be pretty certain that the enemy have withdrawn from their late movement toward Tarborough and Weldon. What may be their next move is only matter of conjecture. Early in the fall, as we have definitely ascertained by specs in New Berne, an expedition against Wilmington was organized, the attack t be made from the direction I have always been apprehensive of-to land with transports at Topsail Inlet, 22 miles from the city; there at high water (10 to 12 feet) [troops] may enter and march by the plank road directly on the city. This plan of attack is the most to be feared, and the one of all others which promises success to the enemy, if in force. Unless we are able tot meet and beat them in battle all the forts and batteries on the river fall, without the necessity of firing a gun, with the fall of the city. After these movements commence it will be too late to re-enforce. Within 10 or 12 miles of the point of landing they would cut the railroad bridges on the northeast branch of the Cape Fear, a wide and deep river; that gone, while succor is cut off, retreat is also, and the garrison of Wilmington must either conquer or surrender. My want of troops you know. I hope at least six field batteries may be spared me, which I think might be done from the immense reserve artillery of the Army of the Potomac, a train seldom, if ever, used in our late campaign. I have also great need of cavalry. A very large extent of country has to be picketed and I have not exceeding 100. They are especially necessary to prevent communication with the enemy's blockaders, who skirt the coast daily 20 or 30 miles n each side of the harbor. A regiment would be none too many. I have already represented the number of infantry which I think is the least should be on hand. I will forward you as soon as possible a report and sketch showing our means of defense and their location. I find everything in confusion, owing to the pestilence, and works in many cases stopped or left unfinished.
It is a matter of great importance that a telegraph office should be established at Magnolia, half-way between Goldsborough and Wilmington; this on account of running the trains with troops over the Wilmington and Weldon Railroad (the distance to Goldsborough from here being 82 miles, too far without a station), and also because at this point (Magnolia) we can procure from the pickets the earliest information of the movements of the enemy from New Berne and Beaufort. Will you ask accordingly?
W. H. C. WHITING,
Wilmington, November 19, 1862.
Brigadier General THOMAS JORDAN,
Chief of Staff, Charleston:
GENERAL: I have to-day sent over to Charleston three negroes belonging to Nassau, W. I. They formed part of the crew of a small schooner which, loaded with slat, was endeavoring to run the blockade on Monday last, but being cut off from Wrightsville Inlet was beached.
The enemy sent a party on shore, of whom a lieutenant, 1 midshipmen