War of the Rebellion: Serial 089 Page 1172 OPERATIONS IN SE. VA. AND N. C. Chapter LIV.

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their strength and condition. They are now prepared to oppose a powerful resistance to any naval attack, and will hold any considerable land force in check for a considerable time,if the garrisons will do their duty. But few of the works are finished, however, and much additional strength will be given when the plans are completed. They are judiciously located and well constructed; to the armaments, already heavy, daily additions are being made,a nd the commanders appear intelligent and zealous. As yet I have not been able to witness the proficiency of the officers and men in drill and target practice, but the reports of both are favorable. With good conduct on the part of the troops, we should expect a successful defense against any naval attack which can be made. Against a land expedition, intended to close the harbor, the means of defense available are very limited indeed, and necessarily so scattered as to justify nothing more than a mere nominal resistance. Assuming that the primary object of the enemy will be to close the port, as at Mobile, we may infer what his operations will probably be:

First. He may attempt with a formidable fleet of light-draught steamers to pass the forts at the mouth of the river and possess himself of the harbor.

Second. To threaten our forts with the fleet and make a descent with a land force to the west of Fort Caswell, and then move to some point on the river above.

Third. To make a lodgment on Smith's Island at the mouth of the river, with a land force and navy co-operating. Possessing himself of the island, both entrances of the harbor will be pretty effectually closed.

Fourth. To make a descent with a land force on the peninsula above Fort Fisher, intrench across it, and thus control the river.

The first I consider the least practicable and therefore the least probable. The third and fourth are the most simple and the most dangerous operations to us. To frustrate such an attempt a movable force of good troops will be necessary. If the lodgment is once made, and the force strongly intrenched, the harbor is lost, and can only be recovered by means much greater than would suffice to hold it. Whether the importance of the harbor is such as to justify the withdrawal of means from other points, also endangered, or whether our information leads to the conclusion that this point is the one to be assailed, your own judgment can best decide.

I am, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

BRAXTON BRAGG,

General.

WAR DEPARTMENT, C. S. A.,

Richmond, Va., October 25, 1864.

General B. BRAGG,

Wilmington, N. C.:

Scouts believed to be reliable report twenty-five large vessels of war, including several monitors, to have been a day or two since at Fortress Monroe, declared in conversation of officers to be intended for attack on Wilmington, and expected to sail to-day. No troops reported with then.

J. A. SEDDON,

Secretary of War.

(Copy to Generals Holmes and Whiting.)