this place, and should be here or gathering here now. This point has been frequently demonstrated, and on it depends al my plans to save this important position. A timely assembly of force may have the effect of diverting attack.
If my opinion of the enemy's intentions is correct, it will be necessary to have a strong force between Weldon and this place. In all probability, I shall have to move the small force at Kenansville (a very important position) to operate on the Holly Shelter road, or to re-enforce here. This will require to be replaced. A brigade, at the least, with batteries of light artillery, ought to come here at once, and I think Pickett's command should move into North Carolina, and forces be drawn from the Army of Virginia, where, probably, no very formidable movement of the enemy from Meade's army may be anticipated in the winter months. If General Beauregard is relieved from apprehension at Charleston, he may be able to assist me, but it is all important that I should have the means in hand to prevent the enemy gaining a fatal advantage before re-enforcements can reach me.
It must be recollected that the enemy have the choice of approaching the coast by sea either above or below me, or by both routes at once, and, in the event of his landing undisturbed, the city itself is in great danger. If he can advance upon it, all goes--harbor, forts, and all.
I am doing all I can, and have been so doing, outside the want of force.
I send this by special messenger, the son of Dr. Wright, who was executed in Norfolk, a very gallant and trustworthy lad. Please answer receipt by telegraph, and send him back.
W. H. C. WHITING,
Wilmington, December 21, 1863.
Commanding C. S. Naval Forces of North Carolina, Wilmington:
FLAG-OFFICER: I have received information from the President to the effect that the enemy, despairing of taking Charleston, propose to attack this place very shortly. At the same time, I learn from New York, via Nassau, that such is the object, and that Gillmore and Dahlgren are regarded as having failed at Charleston; also that gunboats of a peculiar construction, said to be sharp at both ends and of light draught of water, and completed at New York, are destined for here. General Pickett telegraphs me to-day that he learns from Washington, N. C., that the enemy are re-enforcing there (said to be 8,000). No doubt, if true, they intend to try to cut off communication by railroad, to prevent or delay re-enforcements either prior to or simultaneous with a demonstration here.
Any attack on this place, to be successful, must be accompanied by a strong land force, and it is not known whether they will prefer to come from above or below, or both. I do not anticipate a successful attck on the forts by gunboats, but some might succeed in getting by them, to attempt to cut off communication in the river, if built of light draught and great speed. I would, therefore, in