HEADQUARTERS, Wilmington, October 4, 1863.
General S. COOPER,
Adjutant and Inspector General, Richmond:
GENERAL: I must continue to call attention to the serious exposure of this important place, its danger, and our great need of troops.
Never since the commencement of the war has this danger been so imminen, and never in the way of troops, at least (and they are all important), has there been so few to meet it. As I have many times demonstrated, the only plan of successful defense to be adopted here depends on a supporting force or movable column. All the works which have been put up for the protection of the harbor and the city are based upon this, and without this are of but little avail.
Even tose works, though pushed will all the means at my command, are not yet complete.
Instead of a supporting force, estimated at from 10,000 to 20,000 men, necessary, according to the magnitude of the enemy's preparation for even a show of defense, I have but one regiment of infantry and a few batteries of very inferior artillery, none of which have ever been in action.
My heavy artillery force is not sufficient to man the guns which have been mounted. It is, moreover, compelled to labor constantly, owing to the backwardness of the people in furnishing negroes to work upon the fortifications, which impairs it efficiency. I have not, liberally, troops at my disposal to perform the required gurad duty over the public property, now very great, at this important sea-port, and daily increasing.
In the meantime, the operations of the enemy indicate the permanent occupation, by powerful defensive works, of Morris Island. That should be his plan, as it selas up the port of Charleston, still enables him to go on to destroy the city at long range without exposure to himself, and released his fleet and army for the attack on the last remaining port on this coast. He may endeavor to do the same here; that is, seal up the port, and that he will surely and inevitably do unless an army is present. I do not think it will do to wait until after he has landed. It has never done yet. An army of 27,000 men was gathered to support Vicksburg. I do not prented to decide on the relative importance of the two places at that time, but surely this place is as important now as Vicksburg was then. I assure you now, positively, as this place is now situated, 2,000 men can land and either take the city in twenty-four hours, or else render fruitless all the labor that has been expended. I am not very apprehensive of the naval attack. The fortifications that have been erected against that are of the best character, but they depend on security by land, and there can be so security, no system of defense in this peculiar locality without the presence of a large body of troops. It seems to me time to collect them.
It is needless to call attention to the vast importance this port has assumed of late. All are aware of that. It will be easy for the enemy to close it unless I can crush him on his landing; but I have nothing. You are, perhaps, not aware that the defenses here, though vastly increased and totally different in design from the original batteries projected before the monitors were called in play, have not had the increase of a man to garrison them since General French was in command.