HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF NORTH CAROLINA,
Wilmington, January 31, 1865.
GENERAL: From the reports of reconnaissances made the commanding general thinks it may be practicable for you to capture the garrison at Smithville. He wishes you to consider the matter, and if you find it feasible to surprise and carry off this small detachment. The moral effect of such a blow would be immediately felt among our troops.
Respectfully, your obedient servant,
Honorable JAMES A. SEDDON,
Secretary of War:
I feel moved by a sense of duty as well to the public (civil) service as to individual subordinates and others, to make the following respectful representation of facts:
Above is a sketch of the portion of the lines near Fort Harrison occupied by the Local Defense troops. When about 1,700 strong, in October, they occupied from A to B, just opposite Fort Harrison, a front of 500 to 600 yards. As the absolute necessities of the civil service have required the withdrawal of these men, their force was reduced to some 300, yet the commanding officers allowed the gap A B to remain the same. The gap could at any time have been closed up by the troops on each side taking a little distance to the right and left. This has not been done, because military officers, looking only to one class of ideas, have consulted no interest but that of the army, and have just not chosen to do it. The troops have been allowed to prepare winter quarters and make all their arrangements, as if this gap was to be permanently left
74 R R-VOL XLVI, PT II