and I also approve of the disposition you propose to make of the force, unless on after-consideration you should deem it advisable to keep a small force, say the two companiees of the Seventeenth Regiment, at Leaksville, to give some sort of protection to the people of Hyde against their slaves. I suppose they could safely retire upon the approach of a large force of the enemy. I am under the impression that Lieutenant-Colonel Johnston was ordered to proceed to Washington and collect the fragments of his regiment. If I am in error please give him the necessary orders to do so and to report by letter to his colonel, Martin.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
R. C. GATLIN,
NOTE.- I think a company was raised in Hyde for special service and local defense. That company ought either to be disbanded or left in the county or elsewhere, according to the terms of its original muster.
R. C. G.,
HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF NORTH CAROLINA, Goldsborough, February 19, 1862.
Brigadier General L. O'B. BRANCH,
Commanding District of the Pamlico, New Berne, N. C.:
GENERAL: Yesterday I wrote you in regard to Harker's Island. I have also determined to withdraw the troops (Munn's company) from Huggin's Island, and have directed an order to be issued to that effect. The adjutant-general will inclose a copy to you. After you have secured your front in the best manner the means at your disposal will permit it will be necessary that you should look to the possibility of being compelled by a superior force to retire, to fix upon the line of retreat and the next point you design to hold. It would be well to communicate to the field officers the route to be followed in case of retreat and the next line you intend the occupy. This is the more necessary as your troops are not veteran. As to the new line, I am not sufficiently acquainted with the localities to advise, but the first defensible line should be adopted. I am told that a creek taking its rise not far from the Trent enters the Neuse some nine miles above New Berne and that the river just below its mouth is not navigable for boats draving more than three feet of water. It would be well to have this examined into, and if found defensible to adopt it a as last resort; if indefensbile, then a pont still farther this way. I am not particularly apprehensive of a defeat of our arms, but prudence demands that in a defensive war we should be prepared for all contingencies. In connection with this you will also see the necessity of every company being provided with at least one wagon to remove its camp and garrison equipage, the loading of which should be attended to as soon as the enemy appear in sight and the wagons sent a safe distance and parked. The guns removed from Harker's and Huggin's Island might be used to great advantage on this new line, and it would probably prevent a disorderly rout, in case our people are compelled to retreat to know that they have a defensible to fall behind. I hope you will take these suggestions in good part and adopt them as far as practicable. I have no doubt, however, but that you have already given your attention to the matter. Allow me to say that I hear the defenses at Roanoke Island failed in consequence of the supposed impassability of two swamps at each end of the breast-works, which, however, the enemy found passable. This