Creek, and it is already dark, your directions cannot be literally followed, and the circumstances impress me so strongly with the belief that the enemy are about to evacuate Wilmington to-night, that I venture to send one brigade now and wait further orders before withdrawing all. It will take all night to get the whole command to Town Creek, and it seems impossible to cross them all, beginning at an hour so much later than you anticipated when sending the dispatch. Some engineers on the railroad who have come into my lines, several other citizens, and a number of slaves allagree in reporting the intention of evacuating immediately. The destruction of immense quantities of property since I came up this evening looks the same way. I have collected and repaired nearly all of the pontoons and materials of the bridge, and had begun relaying them when your dispatch came. I cannot retire my own force now without it appearing a retrat. I would be entirely willing to stay here with one brigade, and should feel quite confident that I could at any time bring it off safely, if we remained here several days even. Thinking you would not desire more troops at Town Creek than you can cross to-night, I have therefore thought you would, if you knew all the circumstances, think it right to send the one brigade; and if more can cross I can still send them, so as to be not much behind the others if the messenger markes reasonable haste. I believe I mentioned in a former dispatch that the rebels themselves destroyed the Brunswick River railroad bridge.
J. D. COX,
HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF NORTH CAROLINA, ARMY OF THE OHIO,
February 21, 1865-7. 15 p.m.
GENERAL: My orderlies and your signal officer seem to have got lost, and I have heard nothing from you since 10. 30 a.m. I sent an order to you by an orderly on foot about noon, but do not feel at all certain that it has reached you. I want you to move back abreast of the fleet, just above the mouth of Town Creek, to-night, and be ready to cross the river at drawn of day in the morning. Send all your wagons and horses to Fort Anderson. The men will cross in small boats. Better enemy be in force in your front it might be necessary to cross Town Creek before crossing the river. About this, act according to your judgment. I intended you to cross the river to-night, but it is now too late.
J. M. SCHOFIELD,
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE OHIO,
February 21, 1865-10. 20 p.m.
Commanding Third Division, Twenty-third Army Corps:
GENERAL: Your dispatch of 6 p.m. is just received and is highly satisfactory. The one of an earlier date, but the honor not given, came