Goldsborough, N. C., February 3, 1863.
Major General GUSTAVUS W. SMITH,
DEAR SIR: If the information be true that the iron-clads (monitors) are now at Port Royal, and that some thirty transports and a number of gunboats have left Beaufort and gone south, I think the attack on Wilmington is abandoned, if it was ever seriously entertained. Now, it appears to me the United States Government has two great objects in view - first, the capture of Richmond, and, second, the opening of the navigation of the Mississippi River by the reduction of Port Hudson and Vicksburg. Taking this for granted, and that unless they think their army ample for the accomplishment of the first, might we not suppose that the forces under General Foster, now at Beaufort, may when the proper time arrives embark and proceed up the James River? In this case we would have no knowledge of his movements, or rather destination, until he showed himself on the banks of the river, all the coast being in the enemy's possession. If they sail south it appears to me they would go to the Mississippi rather than waste their strength in attacking minor points. It may be, however, that they may land near Savannah. I write this to call your attention to the unprotected state of the James River, and to say that as soon as ever I find positively that the fleet have sailed I wish to move a part of my forces toward Petersburg. If you deem these suggestions worthy of consideration you may forward this letter to the War Department.
Yours, very truly,
S. G. FRENCH,
Richmond, Va., February 6, 1863.
Respectfully forwarded as request for the information of the Secretary of War.
G. W. SMITH,
RICHMOND, VA., February 6, 1863.
Respectfully referred to the President.
J. A. SEDDON,
Secretary of War.
SECRETARY OF WAR:
The suggestion of forces in position to defend the approach of James River is worthy of attention. If the enemy has gone toward the south the destination is most probably the coast of South Carolina, and requires that Charleston and the railroad to Savannah should be covered with a large force than heretofore. There are many reasons to anticipate an attempt against Charleston, and the inducements to capture any other point on the coast south of Wilmington are so small that a concentration of force is clearly indicated at Charleston and on its approaches. There should be simultaneously the greatest activity in Eastern North Carolina, and coupled with military operations there should be vigorous and well-directed efforts to get out the supplies of forage and subsistence remaining in that region.