is self-evident. I believe that both or either of these places can be taken whenever as large an army can again be sent here from points which are just now more vital as Major-General Gillmore has when he left this department. But of course our present depots and landing points must be maintained, hence I earnestly advise the retention, under all circumstances, of such a naval force as will insure our present occupancy of the coast. The land force now under my command in inadequate to make any aggressive movement. I do not even regard it as sufficient of make a successful joint advance should the navy attack Charleston at the present time. Under existing circumstances, therefore, I believe that nothing aggressive can be successfully attempted at this point without an increase of the land forces. Until such additional troops can be sent here, without prejudice to the more important operations now going on elsewhere, I am inclined to the opinion that the naval force can be judiciously reduced to whether pint is consistent with a sure maintenance of the blockade and the undisturbed occupancy of our present position on the coast.
The determination of the exact point is, of course, a purely naval question; so important, however, are the positions now held by us, and so great is the value of Government property accumulated at these points, that, in answer to the first inquiry of the honorable Secretary, I would respectfully suggest that should you advise any reduction of the monitors in your squadron at least four iron-clads should be retained. This number would allow two for Charleston Harbor and one for Ossabaw Sound, with an extra one to relieved either of the others in case of any accident.
In reply to the second question I would state that, in my judgment, serviceable iron-clads are in the present reduced condition of my army essential to holding possession of the Southern coast.
Third. I think it doubtful whether the blockade of Charleston can be maintained without iron-clads; but in this connection I beg to refer to my answer to the next and last inquiry.
Fourth. In case of the removal of all the monitors Morris Island can certainly be held by the military forces, protected by wooden vessels, provided that such wooden vessels are numerous and strong enough to prevent the rebel iron-clads from coming outside of Charleston bar. Should the wooden vessels be unable to prevent the rebel iron-clads from proceeding to sea I still think that my forces could occupy Morris Island until re-enforcements could be obtained, but I should apprehend the danger of a successful attack upon such of our positions as are undefended by regular and strong fortifications, as, for example, Beaufort and the naval and army store-houses and shops at Saint Helena, as I do not regard the fortifications at the entrance of this harbor as sufficient to prevent the passage of iron-clads.
I am, with great respect, your obedient servant,
J. G. FOSTER,
JACKSONVILLE, FLA., August 19, 1864.
Commanding Department of the South:
GENERAL: If you have not already sent north the troops you intended to send, you will perhaps make some change as to the