your opinions were well founded, but that I thought the difficulty you suggested in getting the troops back in case the iron-clads pass the forts and get into the Cape Fear could be obviated. It is very important for the Confederate Government to hold Wilmington, and it is almost absolutely necessary to this State. They cannot take Wilmington by land, I think, if General Gist with the troops he had there before is in the place in time to maneuver in front and check their approach. I have here and at Kinston a little over 5,000 men. There are three regiments at Rocky Mount, half-way from Goldsborough to Weldon, and three at Weldon. I hope that General Lee will yet see in time the necessity for transferring a portion of the forces now in front of Fredericksburg to this State, which I feel assured is to be the theater of active operations this winter and spring. If we can hold Wilmington and Weldon the enemy, if they penetrate the interior of the State, cannot hold themselves there. But if they succeed at Wilmington, and once get possession of it, we will never get it away from them. My opinion is that but for the storm at sea which sent the Monitor to the bottom, disabled the Passaic, and sent the Galena no one knows where, they would before this time, have made a combined attack by sea and land upon Wilmington, and would probably have succeeded in passing the forts with their iron-clads; and if we had been caught with inadequate forces to resist and check them on land they would have had a comparatively easy time of it. But the iron-clads are foiled so far, and if advantage is taken of the delay they will find themselves headed off in every direction.
I cannot close this hurried letter without thanking you for the prompt and efficient assistance you so generously gave in December when we were seriously threatened, and hope that you will be able to continue it to us now. I know you will do all you can. We must combine and contrive to beat them. I am always glad to hear from you and will endeavor to write to you often.
Very respectfully and truly, yours,
G. W. SMITH,
Since writing this I have received your cipher sent to War Department October 16, 1862. The copy sent me dated January 7, 1863.
Wilmington, N. C., January 10, 1863.
Major General GUSTAVUS W. SMITH
Commanding, &c., Goldsborough, N. C.:
MY DEAR GENERAL: I send you the inclosed note,* although it is doubtless exaggerated, still the very report indicates that the war is rapidly being transferred from Virginia to this State. I trust our authorities are equally active. You may depend upon it that Burnside, smarting under his terrible defeat at Fredericksburg, recollecting his successes in North Carolina, the plans he had made to invade upset by the Richmond battles, has induced Lincoln to transfer the war, and sensibly, too, a winter campaign in Northern Virginia being out of the question. I have no doubt that for the last month troops have been moving from Burnside's army through by Suffolk and from outside.