Wilmington, N. C., April 20, 1863.
Honorable JAMES A. SEDDON,
Secretary of War, Richmond, Va.:
SIR: The circumstances developed in the late engagement between the monitors and batteries and batteries at Charleston have confirmed me in certain opinions treated in my report on the defenses of this place, especially as regards Fort Caswell. If you will to that report under the section treating of Fort Caswell and the lower harbor you will see that I strongly recommend as auxiliary to Fort Caswell the occupation of Smithville both by troops and guns to prevent, as there urged, the establishment of the enemy in the harbor. I would modify this only to press the point still further by recommending a powerful permanent battery at Smithville. This I am constructing, and I only write to the. Department now to endeavor to obtain the most powerful guns for it. Glancing at the maps you will see the range of the proposed battery opposite Battery Island, and that it would cover the channel there besides materially aiding Fort Caswell should the monitors endeavored to pass the fort and take position inside to act on the reverse of our defenses. I should want guns that would be formidable to-iron-clads and which could render the anchorage unsafe for them. These should be Brooke guns-rifled 42s or 8 or 10 inch columbiads. In addition to the position at Smithville I shall occupy with a battery (see maps) a high bluff at the mouth of Price's Creek. This would have a strong fire on the Narrows, a difficult passage in the channel shown by the shoal soundings of the map opposite Price's Creek, besides controlling the anchorage above Smithville. Farther up the river, as the point immediately above Governor's Creek, I would place another battery for action upon the eastern anchorage. These works, constructed of sand, I am sure would require land forces on the part on the enemy to reduce them and would be of the utmost importance to us in the event of a forced entrance into the harbor. The only difficulty will be in procuring the guns.
Recollect the problem of obstruction here is one very difficult of solution, if not impracticable, and our main reliance must be our batteries. You know we have an armament here vastly less powerful than that at Charleston. The place itself is little less important to us; is far more so than Savannah or any unoccupied seaport. I hope I may be able to obtain at least eight or ten more powerful guns. Heretofore I have been driving at least eight or ten more powerful guns. Heretofore I have been driving at the strengthening of our works first. Those are still deficient in heavy guns, but are much stronger that they were.
The importance of holding the other harbor is so very great that I must be excused for continuing to press this matter. It involves both Caswell and Fisher, all our importation of arms through this place, as well perhaps as the place itself, and nothing should be left undone that can be done.
W. H. C. WHITING,
It is not possible to defend Wilmington with its present inadequate armament. I have reason to believe that forces are being withdrawn from Charleston to support Foster. Wilmington and the railroad will be the next Yankee move.
D. H. HILL,