operations by land in this quarter, but I believe it to be large enough, if the commander is active and energetic, to enable them to seize Mobile. So important do I regard this place that I would now carry out my instructions to abandon Pensacola, if by so doing I could so increase the force here as to afford any security for its defense against a formidable attack. If the troops here and Pensacola were all armed and organized this place might be rendered comparatively secure for a time by combining the armies of Pensacola and Mobile, but under existing circumstances that combination would not add more than about 1,500 muskets and shot-guns to the force here. I have therefore preferred to continue the occupation of Pensacola, trusting that our affairs in Tennessee would take such a turn as to enable the Government to transfer a part of the force now there to the Gulf coast.
This place has labored under other embarrassments than the want of men and arms; one of these has been the frequent change of commanders. Until about the 5th of February General Withers was in command. During the last three weeks of February General Bragg was here in person. On the 28th of February he assigned me to the command of this department, directing me to carry out certain instructions at Pensacola and then come here. In the mean time Colonel (now Brigadier-General) Villepigue was left in command. On the 4th of March General Bragg issued an order resuming his former command of this department, but subsequently explained that he did not intend thereby to take the command from me, but only to attach the department to his command in Tennessee and Mississippi.
I arrived here and assumed command on the 14th March. Ten days later General Bragg ordered me to turn over my command and report to him in person at Corinth. I did so, and on the 31st March was ordered to return here and resume command of this department. Ten days after my return (on the 11th April) I received a telegram from General Lee, ordering me to turn over the command of the department to Brigadier-General Forney, who had been ordered to report to me, and to report myself in person to General Beauregard.
Forney arrived, but with his wound and general health such that he could not enter on duty, but applied for an obtained leave of absence on surgeon's certificate. I so telegraphed General Lee, who replied that I could not leave here until relieved by General Forney. In the mean time General Bragg telegraphed me that if I could not go immediately to Corinth and report to General Beauregard I need not go at all. So the matter now stands.
I am under orders from General lee to report to General Beauregard when Forney is able to relieve me, and from General Bragg not to do so unless I can do it immediately. This state of uncertainty is embarrassing, and prevents me from carrying out some plans which I thought would add to the security of this place.
I am at present the only general officer of the Confederate Army on duty in the department, and I, as you see, am under rather uncertain orders. I respectfully suggest that there should be at least two; one here and one in Pensacola. It would be desirable that another should command the department if one can be spared for that service.
I shall be glad if you will lay the spared of this letter before the Secretary, and communicate to me such instructions as may be thought proper.
I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,