with the enemy over each one of these vessels, the enemy's sloops of war fiercely attacking the forts while their smaller vessels attempt to cut off the steamers. This has happened at both forts. Without the disposition alluded to at Fort Fisher we should have lost the Cornubia inevitably three days ago. She had been thrice chased off the coast and became short of coal; running into the land at Masonborough she communicated with Colonel Lam, and the disposition being offered, boldly made for the bar, a fleet of five vessels firing into her. She had the most valuable cargo of powder and arms she has yet brought. Under these circumstances, unless for a matter of greater and pressing importance, I should not like to take the responsibility of detaching the gun from the coast defense. What is this expedition of which you speak? General Longstreet wrote me something about it, but wanted me to send off half my force and half my garrisons.
With great respect, your obedient servant,
W. H. C. WHITING,
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF NORTHERN VIRGINIA,
March 7, 1863.
Lieutenant General JAMES LONGSTREET,
Commanding Department of North Carolina, & c.:
GENERAL: I have received your letters of the 4th and 5th instant. I have as yet seen nothing to indicate a change of purpose in the enemy to attack Charleston. If Wilmington is their object, as supposed by General Whiting, it will be disclosed by the return of their mailed gunboats and army. General Beauregard will no doubt communicate the withdrawal of the enemy from his department, and then, as soon as possible, if Wilmington should be pointed at, our troops should be drawn to that point. I see that General Foster has returned to New Berne, but, as far as I can learn, without his troops. I supposed this might be in consequence of his disagreement with General Hunter, and that leaving his forces with the latter officer was an additional sign that the attack on Charleston or Savannah was not abandoned. General Burnside was reported a few days since to be in Washington City. As far as I can form an opinion only three corps have been sent from General Hooker's army to Newport News, and by the last reports they were still there and the indications showed that they did not contemplate an immediate departure. I have estimated their force at 21,000. All of our scouts agree (those from the enemy's line as well as those on the Potomac) that only three corps have left; seven remain. They also report that some disaffected regiments have been sent away on the plea of preventing contagion. These latter are reported to have gone to Washington and to their States for the purpose of recruiting, and their places to have been supplied by other regiments, so that their strength is equal to what it was before the battle. Their cavalry force has been greatly augmented recently, and the report still is that they intend to advance by this route. It is also stated that the corps sent to Newport News is intended for Burnside and that he will operate in North Carolina. General Hooker has his headquarters on the Potomac Creek near Brooke's Station. His army is located along the railroad from Falmouth to Aquia, but the greater part near Aquia. There are no signs of further embarkation of troops or collection of transports. The only steamers descending the Potomac are those apparently conveying sup