HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF THE SOUTH,
Hilton Head, S. C., June 21, 1864.
Major General H. W. HALLECK,
Chief of Staff:
GENERAL: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 11th instant, I am now drilling the new negro regiments in hopes of making them effective for service in two or three months, and at the same time gathering into this place and Morris and Folly Islands the best white regiments, so as to obtain a small force of really effective men with which to attempt some promising operation against the enemy. Considerable preparation has to be made to replace the operating engineer and quartermaster material, of which so large an amount was taken away by General Gillmore, and as soon as these are completed I shall commence to make offensive movements against the enemy. I shall continue these until I succeed at some one of them. I shall not risk much; at the same time, of chance favors, I shall attempt a good deal. This supposes that no further draft be made upon this command. With respect to this, I must say that General Gillmore's report that 5,000 more men could be spared from this department surprises me very much. He knew very well that he took away the best of the while regiments, and that of the colored force very little of it was effective in a hazardous battle, and nearly 4,000 of it entirely unused to arms and ignorant of drill. The entire force left was 15,000 effectives, of which one-fourth was required in Florida to hold the country in which the citizens had been required to take the oath of allegiance or leave, and thus made dependent upon the good faith of the Government for protection.
Morris and Folly Islands and this island have to be held by a force sufficient to make them secure. The only districts in which nay risks can be run are those of Beaufort (Port Royal and adjacent islands) and Florida, in the former of which the plantations for freedmen and the schools for their children will be jeopardized,and in the latter, the poor people, who want to be loyal to the Government, will be more or less exposed to rebel barbarity by means of guerrilla bands. I am, however, perfectly willing to send 5,000 men, of they are ordered, and will send the best that remain, and will dot his with zeal and cheerfulness, for I fully recognize the fact that the great struggle of the war is in progress in Virginia, the conquest of which would fully compensate for any losses in this section. All that I wish to present for consideration is whether that small force will not be more useful here, inasmuch as it will enable me to harass the enemy continually and to call to our front a corresponding force of rebels, and to be prepared to meet the attack of a superior force in case the rebel armies are forced to fall back into this State and North Carolina. The force which General Gillmore first reported could be spared from this department, as I am informed, was from 7,000 to 11,000 men. But upon being ordered to go in command in person be increased this estimate, and actually took nearly 18,000 men. Brigadier-General Hatch, whom he left in command, informed him that the force left here was not sufficient for safety, and after his departure felt it his duty to report the matter to the Adjutant-General of the Army, which he did in a letter, the copy of which I inclose.*
* See May 13, p. 92.