War of the Rebellion: Serial 088 Page 1300 OPERATIONS IN SE. VA. AND N. C. Chapter LIV.

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Raleigh, September 28, 1864.

General WHITING,


GENERAL: Your letter of the 24th instant, in relation to the defense of Wilmington, has been received, and has my earnest consideration. I regret to learn that the defense of Wilmington depends alone upon the militia forces of the State. If this be, so the place might as well be surrendered on the first summons of the enemy. The entire force I could send you for three months would not exceed 5,000 men, raw and untrained. It was my intention to send every one promptly when the time comes, and the reason why I cannot send them and have not sent them heretofore in order that you might drill and, to some extent, discipline the, is twofold: First, nearly all of the militia subject to my control are farmers; they are now saving forage, making molasses, and sowing wheat. I have had them out for thirty days drilling, organizing, and arresting deserters, about 1,000 of whom have been returned to duty. With these men kept out all the time and not permitted to sow wheat, the loss to both people and army would be incalculable. This is part of the programme military commanders are apt to forge. Now, if I were to send you the negroes and the home guard, having already the Junior and Senior Reserves, what labor would be left to do anything at all? I admit that almost anything is preferable to the capture of Wilmington, but, destitute as the country is of labor, I had earnestly hoped that the militia would be spared until the last moment. Secondly, I respectfully submit that I am entitled to judge of the necessity which calls these men to the field. It has been the habit of Confederate commanders in North Carolina to conduct all matters connected with our defense without reference to me whatever, with the exception of General G. W. Smith, and calls are constantly made upon me for the militia without putting me in possession of any facts other than the opinion of the officers upon what the necessity of the call is predicated. In the spring General Ransom telegraphed me from Weldon to call out the militia, and to my inquiry what for, he made no reply. General Baker wrote me from Goldsborough to the same effect some weeks ago, and even now I have not been informed of one single circumstance showing why Wilmington is about to be attacked. Your opinion is, of course, to be respected, but I should be much better satisfied to make these people lose their crops if my own judgment had an opportunity of concurring with yours as to its immediate necessity. I now say to you, general, that if convinced of its being absolutely necessary to the safety of Wilmington I will make any sacrifice that may be required, even to the risk of starvation. I will send you every man I can control in the State, except from a few counties on the western border; will appeal to every other able-bodied man to go, and will go myself. You have already the power, under act of Congress, to impress slave labor, and for various reasons I prefer you should do it, unless I have the power or returning them when I thought proper.

I am, general, very respectfully, yours,


RALEIGH, September 28, 1864.

General W. H. C. WHITING,

MY DEAR GENERAL: When I told the Governor I should write to you the purport of my conversation with him about you, he desired me not