HDQRS. DEPARTMENT ALABAMA, AND WEST FLORIDA,
Near Pensacola, Fla., January 14, 1862.
Honorable J. P. BENJAMIN,
Secretary of War, Richmond, Va.:
SIR: I have to acknowledge yours of the 5th instant, covering a copy of your circular regulations based on the law for encouraging re-enlistments.
The subject shall have my earliest attention, none less cordial because I doubt the policy of parts of the law. And I will add, that though my opinions will be freely expressed at all times, as due to us both, it is only necessary for me to know the policy of the Government to secure my efforts in carrying it out. In no other way can military operations be successfully conducted.
From what I can see and learn there seems to be a prospect of reaction taking place, and our success may yet be greater, than anticipated when I last wrote. The governor of Alabama is giving me cordial assistance, and the people at hone, as a general rule, are prompting their neighbors and friends to remain in the service. Many who had gone on furlough are back before their times are up, bringing their comrades; the strongest assurances that they cannot stay at home.
We confidently rely, then, on securing eventually a very large proportion of all we have had. The great question now is to keep up their organization, for one of our well organized and instructed regiments, under good officers, is worth any two which could be made up of a heterogeneous mass fresh from the country, and they require but half the number of arms.
The circumstances in which we are placed in regard to arms impose upon us a sacred duty of preserving to the greatest extent those we have. New troops are particularly destructive, and the closest attention from officers of all grades is necessary to preserve what we possess. The officer or man who by neglect or inattention destroys an efficient weapon now does the cause more harm than if he abandoned it in battle. With what we have I cannot but regard our cause as safe, though a larger supply would render its vindication less tedious.
In nominating the lieutenant-colonel of the Twenty-seventh Mississippi, I was influenced solely by the reputation that officer has established here in his nine months' service. He was assigned temporarily to these companies on their arrival here, and has done much already towards putting them in shape. He is an excellent disciplinarian, a very good drill officer, and has no superior, if an equal, of his grade, in this army. Of his antecedents I know nothing, and it may be the President there finds cause to object. I intended assigning this regiment, thus admirably officered, to Fort McRee and adjacent batteries, to replace Colonel Villepigue's regiment, which will not be reorganized as such, the companies being from three different States.
I strongly desire to retain the colonel, with his present rank, as chief of artillery and engineers on my staff, in place of Captain Boggs, resigned.
You are mistaken in regard to Colonel Bullock's regiment. It was organized, and the field officers appointed by the President, or the vacancy would at once have been filled, as in other cases, under the State law. The lieutenant-colonel (Shorter) is a gentleman and man of character, and will faithfully apply himself to learn and discharge his duties.
I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,