I send you with this copies of communications just received from General Whiting and General Beauregard. I may have to re-enforce Wilmington from here. I have one brigade at Kinston about 1,200; two here, one of 1,300, the other about 3,000. Ransom's two brigades should have been sent at once and should be rapidly following. Please let me know as soon as possible whether General Lee can look after Richmond and Petersburg if Ransom's troops are ordered here, and decide what additional forces if any are to be sent. It is very important that I should know what force I am to have and that I have it in hand as soon as possible.
Very respectfully, and truly, yours,
G. W. SMITH,
Wilmington, January 7, 1863
Major General GUSTAVUS W. SMITH:
MY DEAR GENERAL: Yours just received. I would have been all right had Beauregard allowed his troops to remain. As it is, he stopped taking all away, leaving me Stevens' regiment, Harrison's regiment, and a battalion. These with Clingman's brigade, three of Beauregard's batteries, and my three, make my present disposable force. It is not enough to hold the enemy, in such a country as the plank road, at a distance from town, if he comes in the force represented or even half of that. And to keep him at a distance is all important, because that is my only way to save the Northeast Bridge. I send you Beauregard's telegraph to me. But if Wilmington is the point menaced and I believe it is, those troops ought to be here to enable me to maneuver. General Lee's remarks about drawing troops from North Carolina, and then adding that Wilmington must be defended at all hazards, rather crowds me. If I could possibly have those 5,000 here I could stop the enemy 15 miles from here and keep his hands full, besides saving the Northeast [Bridge], which is important to your movement whether you intend to strike him in flank or rear; and of course very important to Wilmington. I shall write Beauregard and also telegraph him. Hadn't you better telegraph him that the movement of his troops should commence at once. I know he had them all ready to move, but transportation is so fear-fully slow.
Very tired; just off a 40-mile reconnaissance to eastward.
W. H. C. WHITING,
CHARLESTON, January 8, [1863.]
Should enemy's iron-clads or other steamers enter Cape Fear River would not my troops at Wilmington be cut off from possibility of return? If so, ought Charleston and Savannah to be endangered for that city? Weldon, Raleigh, and Wilmington are three objective points of enemy; first two are decisive objectives. If all three cannot be defended together with strong probability of success, enemy's movements and our available forces must determine which to sacrifice in timely succession for defense of most important one. Such is my view of present military operations in North Carolina. Please answer.*
G. T. BEAUREGARD.
*Same to Cooper and Smith.
53 R R-VOL XVIII