WAR DEPARTMENT, C. S. A.,
Richmond, November 7, 1861.
General JOSEPH E. JOHNSTON,
Commanding Department Northern Virginia:
SIR: It is with the greatest surprise and regret that I have read your letter of the 2nd instant to the Adjutant-General. I had not the remotest idea that you expected any aid from Mr. Hunter or from this Department in relation to the winter quarters for the troops, nor can I conceive on what basis you entertained such expectation.
On the 13th of last moth I wrote you at considerable length on this subject, and in order to avoid delay forwarded my letter by Mr. James Hunter and Dr. John P. Hale.
The arrangements made by me were ample, and orders were given for securing ten portable saw-mills here in Richmond, for the purpose of sawing the lumber necessary for the huts. Aware of the urgency of the case, and unable to act without your co-operation, because of my ignorance of the locality where you proposed to shelter the army, I closed my letter with a distinct statement that the parties could not commence active work till you decided this question. It was plainly necessary that they should have some indication of the place where they were to locate the saw-mills before going to work.
Several days afterwards Mr. Hunter and Dr. Hale returned here and reported verbally:
1st. That you had referred them to General Beauregard for conference on the subject of their winter quarters.
2nd. That they had found General Beauregard so much engaged as to be unable to accord to them the time and attention necessary for any concert of action between them and the general.
3rd. That Major Cabell, who was present at their conversation with General Beauregard, had observed that it was entirely practicable for each regiment to hut itself in two or three days, as he knew from actual experience in service.
4th. That General Beauregard seemed quite relieved of care on the subject when Major Cabell gave him this assurance.
The two gentlemen returned with the conviction that their services were not desired nor required by the army, and without any information as to the locality where the lumber was to besawed; and, indeed, Mr. Hunter gave me to understand, what seems probable enough, that you were not willing to leave open any opportunity to the enemy to guess at your plans by putting a number of saw-mills at work in any neighborhood where you expected to establish your winter quarters.
I therefore colluded that you had, in concert with General Beauregard, reached the conclusion that you could dispense with any aid from the Department, and could hut the army on the plan spoken of by Major Cabell. I received no answer from you to my letter. Mr. Hunter represented that you declined his services. The saw-mills previously engaged by him were not purchased, and none are to be had at this time. Mr. Hunter has long since gone home, and I had dismissed all solicitude from my mind on the subject of the cantonment of our troops, when the Adjutant-General submitted to me your letter of the 2nd instant, indicating an expectation that Mr. Hunter was to commence operations with his saw-mills.
This is distressing in the extreme, and I am entirely at a loss in what mode to assist you. I will, however, do the best in my power, and can only make the following suggestions:
Ist. It is now out of the question to build board huts. The lumber .