Wilmington, September 16, 1864.
[Colonel D. McRAE:]
I have read with surprise your editorial upon a communication published in the New York Times advocating an early attack on Wilmington. Surprise, not at its evident reflections on myself, for I have learned that members of the press in general show but little care as to the effect of their articles on the reputation of individuals, who, in a public position, may be the subjects of discussion, but that you should publish and article which will tend to weaken the defense of this important place. I am sure you have had no such intention, but you are of influence in the State, politically, socially, and in your present position; you have been a soldier, and a brave and gallant one, as I have often borne witness. As such, I ask you frankly: Ought you not to have informed yourself as to what I have done already for the defense of Wilmington and what is being done before you indicated to the people your want of confidence in me and so weakened greatly my position as commanding general? The matter is one of the greatest importance. You and every North Carolinian and every Southron are interested, and I can blame no one for the expression of anxiety, earnest as my own, that Wilmington should be properly and indomitably defended. Will your remarks help the matter? Can they help Wilmington? I do not wish to speak of myself further than this: that I was transferred by the President from the command of one of the noblest divisions of the army, one which, neither under me nor under my more distinguished successors, Generals Hood and Field, ever knew defeat, to undertake the defense of Wilmington. I presume this was done on account of my supposed professional fitness for such duty. Will it aid me or help the defense for the report to be spread that there is no confidence in me? I beg you not to misunderstand me as putting this question to you in my own interest at all. You are a patriot, and provided our last hold upon the water is maintained it is certainly nothing to you whether it is done upon the water is maintained it is certainly nothing to you whether it is done by me or by any one else. That it should be done and well done must alone be your object. But in furtherance of that, let me ask you if you can spare a few days to examine for yourself what has been done here. I will take pleasure in enabling you to see everything, even to-in confidence-my correspondence. You will learn in what condition it was when I took command, in what it is now, what warnings have been given, how far I must be held responsible up to this time, perhaps how far I am fit. You will be able to judge for yourself how far I have the confidence of my troops, whatever may be the opinion of the people of Raleigh, or of others, who, unlike yourself, have kept out of this war. And you will then be in position to discuss this important question from knowledge and information. I shall be happy to welcome you. Be good enough to understand that I take no exception to your remarks as far as they affect me personally, only as they affect the defense. Perhaps I am not a judge in the premises. But you may be assured that I have but one object here, and that is to save this place and hold it. Whether that is to be done by others, and there are many better that I, is nothing, so it is done.
Please to consider this as a private letter, not in any way intended for publication. Should you accept the proposition I have made to see for yourself, and I think you owe it to your position to inform yourself fully of the matter you discuss, I can, of course, take no exception to any criticisms you may deem to make hereafter, founded on your own observation. The President, General Lee, and General Beauregard,