War of the Rebellion: Serial 089 Page 1138 OPERATIONS IN SE. VA. AND N. C. Chapter LIV.

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any cavalry at all, I could no doubt stop anything of the kind on land; but how can I guard this broad river at night without a force afloat? It is precisely because we have so small a force that these are asked for. We need every man at home that can be available for service. These are both gunners and sailors. Their duty in the Rips batteries is as essential to the defense as, and will be more effective than, the ironclad. The river guard is purely a naval duty, and is necessary at all times, especially so when the large number of valuable vessels at anchor below are considered. Just before this request was made I was notified that we must depend on the garrison we have and what North Carolina can send us, militia, to save Wilmington. No wonder we need gunners and guns, and that I was extremely urgent in endeavoring to obtain all of which there could be hopes.

There are other considerations apart from the particular need of this force, ashore and afloat, which surely deserve at this crisis special attention. First, while the departure of this force might be considered to leave things as they have been, and as it was not here previously, we should be no weaker than heretofore, yet this is not so. It will inevitably increase the blockade, precipitate attack, render the receipt of supplies precarious. There can be no question that in the past four weeks the loss of seven of the very finest and fastest of the trading fleet is due, directly or indirectly, to the expedition of the Tallahassee-directly, on account of their having been compelled to give up their coal to her, and show the black smoke of the soft coal in a sea swarming with cruisers, and with speed diminished nearly one-half; the days when vessels successfully ran the blockade with North Carolina coal are long passed; indirectly, so that in consequence of that ship having gone out from and returned here the fleet has been doubled. Last week gives us the record of the Lynx, the Night Hawk, and the Condor lost, with much valuable cargo, and the Owl in going out compelled to throw over her cargo of cotton, if indeed she be not caught. It was from an earnest consideration of these points, as well as the paramount necessity of obtaining everything available for the defense, that I addressed you, and, in addition, I was urged by the unanimous sentiment of the community and the State, not to be neglected, the report of General Beauregard on this very subject, and further, by the fact that, as far as I can learn, the officers of the navy agree with the views expressed.

Very respectfully,




Wilmington, October 6, 1864.

Major-General GILMER,

Chief of Engineers, Richmond:

GENERAL: Your two letters of 30th of September and 1st of October received. In reference to impressment of labor, I have telegraphed, both to you and the Secretary of War, requesting the enrolling officers to effect this purpose. They have been gathering the free negroes, and they re prepared with officers, detailed men, and districts to do the work promptly, much more so, than I can, who have not an officer and man to spare. My district is limited to defenses of Wilmington, and includes but a few counties, which I have heavily taxed already, and which has supplied three-fourths of all the labor expended. I am at