the Chowan, apparently to take them to New Berne. We have between here and Wilmington only about 12,000 available men; it must be doubled. Can you send us immediately 15,000 more men? I will write you in detail by this evening's mail. This has been shown to Major-General Smith.
S. G. FRENCH.
Read and returned to the Secretary of War. Have you asked Governor Vance to furnish militia? What of the troops to come from Western Virginia?
WELDON, N. C., January 6, 1863.
Honorable JAMES A. SEDDON,
Secretary of War, Richmond, Va.:
SIR: Immediately after the fall of New Berne I was ordered to the District of the Cape Fear and the defenses of Wilmington, which city I fortified by a vast amount of labor; thence in July I was called to Petersburg in command of the Department of North Carolina. Petersburg then had no works of defense except a trifling work on the Appomattox. This left me a line to defend from Drewry's Bluff to South Carolina, with the enemy occupying an inland frontier line from the James River to Beaufort, N. C. My force then was scarcely adequate to the task, when, on the last of August, I was summoned to Richmond by your predecessor, and cheerfully-to strengthen the Army of the Potomac- reduced the force to about ten regiments, and some of them very small ones. With this small force the Blackwater has been successfully defended against three attempts by the enemy with large force to cross it, and Foster's advance on the Roanoke and their various gunboat excursions have been defeated, and lastly, without a soldier sent from Richmond to Goldsborough being brought into action, General Foster was again obliged to retire to New Berne. But to meet Foster, in the first instance I took all the infantry force from Wilmington and all but a city guard from Petersburg; in the latter instance General Smith did the same, to the virtual abandonment of those cities by the forces of this department. Now, again, there is but one available regiment in Petersburg, and the force on the Blackwater is very much reduced, and we cannot bring over 12,000 effective for the defense of the line between here and Goldsborough. During all this time the enemy have been steadily increasing their forces, until now I believe they have at least 40,000 men in New Berne, supported by an undue proportion of artillery and a large fleet of gunboats. They also have about 5,000 infantry in Suffolk. As we must act on the defensive, it will not be possible with our means of transportation on the railroad to concentrate them in front of the enemy should he advance even on one line ere he reaches the railroad, much less should he divide and threaten Wilmington and Weldon. I mention all this to give you a brief account of the progress of the operations in North Carolina and to show you how it constantly causes the change of troops. Now, every infantry soldier and officer who have built up the defenses of Petersburg and the Blackwater and are familiar with the topography of the country are gone. This is a military error, in my opinion; but it could not have been avoided, yet it may be remedied. But my object chiefly is to inform you of the condition of affairs