PRIVATE AND CONFIDENTIAL.] FORT MONROE, VA.,
September 22, 1863.
General-in-Chief, Washington, D. C.:
GENERAL: I have the honor to acknowledge receipt of a letter of date September 19, from Assistant Adjutant-General Hardie, inclosing a communication from the honorable Secretary of the Navy to the honorable Secretary of War, on the subject of two iron-clads being built on the Roanoke River, and, in that point of view, on the subject of the defenses of Plymouth and the mouth of the Roanoke River.
I have the honor to say that I have long been aware of the building of these iron-clads, and of the necessity of preparing for and guarding against them. The defenses of Plymouth have been made strong, and piling has been and is being driven in the bed of the river across the channel.
As you are aware, several raids by the army and navy have been made up the Roanoke River. It is possible, if not probable, that these boats are constructed for river defense and to prevent the success of any future raids, though I believe that they are intended to be used against our naval forces at Plymouth, and against Plymouth possibly, in connection with the descent of other boats from White Hall on the Neuse, and perhaps from other points on rivers emptying into the Sounds. The attempting the destruction of the boats on the Roanoke River by a cavalry raid (as the proposed iron-clads on the Tar River were destroyed) has been thought of, but has not been attempted, as I did not deem that the attempt could be successful, the enemy being strongly posted in some force, and protected by earth-works and provided with artillery, heavy guns, and light batteries. I have not marched against their works, particularly the one at Rainbow Bluff, for the reason that the available force at my disposal was not sufficient, my troops being only sufficient to garrison and hold important occupied posts.
I would respectfully state, referring to the foregoing, that if I could be re-enforced to the extent of 10,000 good infantry (men to be relieved on), I would add all that I could gather from my present force of infantry, artillery, and cavalry, and endeavor to surprise and capture the enemy's works at Rainbow Bluff.
Succeeding, I would endeavor to reach Edwards Ferry and destroy these gunboats, and, if successful there, march on Weldon and Gaston for the purpose of destroying the bridges at those points. I do not think that any or all of the above operations should be tried by me without the number of reliable soldiers named above being added to my command. When I returned, either having been successful or having been defeated, I could begin the siege of the forts at the mouth of the Cape Fear River, and might soon accomplish the blockade of the river, if nothing more.
I shall not be misunderstood, I hope, in adding that, if operations have ceased or the good of the service permits, my preference is to have the troops I know and who know me, my detachment now serving in the Department of the South.
Inclosed* I forward copies of the letters referred to by me.
I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
J. G. FOSTER,
*See p. 212.