judgment, not being able to be on the ground myself, and to that of Lieutenant Obenchain. It is possible that reconnaissance in front of your position and a short distance beyond the road which leads from the plank road to Holly Shelter may afford a good site for a small outpost or advanced work for pickets. All of the troops here with General Gist commenced leaving Charleston to-day; so you will soon have your full command and be assured of able support. It behooves us therefore to work very hard and rapidly; and although I did not at first glance think very well of that position, yet with some labor and a strong supporting force we shall be able materially to check, if not defeat, the enemy's advance. General Gist will visit your shortly.
W. H. C. WHITING,
GOLDSBOROUGH, January 9, 1863
Honorable JAMES A. SEDDON, Secretary of War:
I returned this evening from Raleigh, which place I visited at the solicitation of Governor Vance. I sent you telegram from there last night, saying it was not advisable to call out the militia at this time, and I will add that I do not think it ever will be advisable to do so. I telegraphed at the same time that I purposed ordering Ransom's division into North Carolina. I would have done this whilst at Richmond had I felt at liberty to act in the case upon my own judgment, and will do it from here at once as soon as a movement of the enemy in force is known. But as my general views have been laid before the Department and General Lee, and the latter only detached Ransom's division for the protection of Richmond and Petersburg, I refrain from ordering it farther on mere anticipated action of the enemy; but it is needed here, and many more troops will be required to put us on anything like equality of numbers with the enemy.
General Beauregard has left two regiments and a battalion at Wilmington. This, in addition to Clingman's brigade, which is about 2,000 effectives, makes General Whiting's force too small for maneuver far from his interior line of intrenchments and materially lessens the chances of his being effectively aided by a force from here. General Beauregard evidently considers it hazardous to place any large number of his troops in Wilmington when there is any prospect of the iron-clads taking possession of the Cape Fear. There is much reason in this view of the case.
From information received from Beaufort and New Berne it is not only certain that the enemy is concentrating rapidly at New Berne through the Sound and by sea through Beaufort, but that had not their principal iron-clad vessel been lost and others injured they would in all probability ere this have made a combined attack by land and sea upon Wilmington. I have no great confidence that either Fort Caswell or Fort Fisher can prevent the passage of heavy iron-clad steamers into the river. If either of these forts are passed by such vessels both forts will fall. A storm at sea has deferred the time of attack. We have, I hope, still time enough to get ready for them.
General Lee's letter to me, which I showed you the night before I left Richmond, has almost deterred me from referring further to the subject of re-enforcements from that end of the line; but I beg that you will bear in mind that it is far more easy to hold Wilmington than to retake it. The same is true of other points in this State and true of the State itself.