HDQRS. FOURTH MIL. DISTRICT OF SOUTH CAROLINA,
Georgetown, March 13, 1864.
General S. COOPER,
Adjutant and Inspector General, Richmond, Va.:
(Through General G. T. Beauregard, commanding Department of South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida):
GENERAL: I beg leave most respectfully to invite the attention of the War Department to the imperiled condition of this section of the Confederacy, because of the exceeding poverty of our present means of defense, not only in material but in men. This military district embraces the line of coast lying between the North Carolina line of the one side and Bull's Bay on the other. Within its coast limits are embraced the entrances to Winyah Bay, the two Santee Rivers, and Bull's Bay, besides a number of smaller inlets.
Immediately back of the coast line lies the richest belt of alluvial lands (all until recently in the highest state of cultivation) anywhere to be found in the State, stretched along the banks of the Pedee, Waccamaw, Black, Sampit, and the two Santee Rivers, the portals to all which are the entrances above referred to. It is estimated that the agricultural productions of this alluvial belt alone will subsist not less than 75,000 men, provided defenses at all commensurate with its importance be afforded. In the spring of 1862 the almost total withdrawal of all defense led to the abandonment of at least three-fourths of the lands then in cultivation, the planters fleeing for safety, with their slaves, far into the interior, and yet the product of the fourth that still remained under cultivation has, in spite of the adverse circumstances produced by the close proximity of the enemy, contributed largely to the support of soldiers' families in this and adjoining districts, besides helping to no inconsiderable extent to feed not only the troops in this military department, but those also of General Johnston's army, as I am informed.
But it is not only as a source for furnishing subsistence to our armies and our people that I am impelled by a high sense of duty earnestly to solicit the attention of the War Department to this section of the Confederacy. Its possession by the enemy would afford him decided military advantages. Once firmly established in this town or vicinity he would constantly threaten the lines of railroad which traverse the country from Wilmington to Charleston and Columbia, and to give anything like reasonable security to which would require five times the force necessary to enable us to hold our position here.
Incidentally, it may not be amiss for me to mention that upon our defenses here rests the safety of the Confederate navy-yard at Mars Bluff. Should the enemy break through our line of defense, 50 or 100 cavalry landed on the banks of the Pedee would in a few hours reach the navy-yard, complete the work of destruction there, and return without encountering any serious obstacle, because there would not be time to throw any in their way, if they moved promptly. The requisition which I have had the honor quite recently to submit for heavy guns, &c., will, I feel confident, when supplied, effectually close the water approach. The other avenue of approach is very feebly held, and it is to the alarming fact that I have not a single infantry soldier attached to this command that I desire most especially to invoke attention.
With a coast line to observe and guard more than 70 miles in length, intersected by three deep and rivers, my command consists