I have, in Consequence of your Earnest request, ventured to commit to writing my sentiments on the subject proposed by you to your Council of Officers, at which you desired my presence. I am very apprehensive of incurring the Censure of Arrogance and presumption for this compliance, because I am not of the Military profession, and my Ideas of the affairs of War are drawn only from reflection unassisted by Experience. You will I doubt not, Acquit me, altho I have Often, in Conversation, pressed the Opinions which I shall now give in writing; for you well know the difference between Conversing and writing on Subjects of which we do not profess ourselves Masters.
The purport of your Intelligence is
“that the Enemy intend to remove their Troops, except a small garrison, from Cambden and embarque them for Capefear River; that Lord Cornwallis has applied for reinforcements, to be landed at Portsmouth in Virginia, in order to Co-operate with the force Supposed to be destined for Cape Fear.”
You request my Sentiments, first, on the Credit to be given to this Intelligence, and next on the most eligible disposition to be made of the forces under your Command.
Without animadverting on the mode and Channel by which this Intelligence has reached you, give me leave to Observe that it only speaks of intended Measures, not of any Movements actually made: and that it is not so conclusive, in any Circumstance, as to supercede the presumptions, which, from probabilities, may arise against it. The Credit it merits, in my Opinion,
Cape fear river will admit no larger vessel than a twenty gun Ship. Its Navigation from Wilmington to Cross Creek is only 8 flats; the distance is above One hundred miles. The Country to the Southward of this River is Composed of a ridge of Sand running between the river and an extensive Lake and Marsh; to the Northward lies a large Sound which divides the Sea Coast from the rest of the Country, and extends nearly to the Confines of Virginia. Into this Sound, several large Rivers, running parallel to Cape fear river, empty themselves; and some small inlets give admittance to small vessels from the Sea. The march across this Country must be extremely difficult and hazardous, and it seems to me to be more easy to go round the heads of the Rivers with an Army than to march across them. If I am right in this, the present position of the Enemy is more eligible than one on Cape fear River, because they are already advanced beyond the heads of the rivers that might obstruct them, and the Country lies open between them and James' River in Virginia___excepting only the opposition that might be given them in passing the Yadkin and Roanoke; and they are advanced beyond the first fords of these. If, by Co-operation, they mean marching in order to form a Junction, their difficulties being much fewer in the march that might be made through the open Country lying to the Westward than that through the low marshy Country, intersected as it is by many deep rivers, I conclude that by adopting the measures mentioned in your information it would give up advantages for difficulties. If, by Cooperation be meant making diversions, and engaging our force on distant and separate objects, this End would not be so well answered by their taking a post on Cape fear river as by Carrying on Operations in the Western Country; fewer troops would limit their progress and straiten their Quarters in a Country full of Swamps and rivers than in an Open Country; nor is the object at Capefear so important as the Command of South Carolina, and the back part of North Carolina, the former of which they possess by their present position and the latter they may hope for; but both must be abandoned by their
These Opinions, such as they are, are at your Service, and if I was in Capacity, by avowing them, to keep from you all the censures that might follow their Consequences, I would cheerfully