made by them with perfect security from Cape Girardeau, on account of the peculiar topography of the country, the route being on a ridge nearly the whole way, bounded on the sides by large and impassable swamps; it is also intersected by the railroad from Bird's Point.
General Polk's force is now reduced to about 13,000 men, as he reports, by sending Bowen's division here, the Third Mississippi to the coast (asked for by General Lovell, who, I may say, loaned this and a Louisiana regiment for the defense of Columbus last month), and the disbanding of Thompson's command. On account of these reductions it would be judicious to re-enforce him.
Instructions with regard to the purchase of supplies for the commissary and quartermaster's department have been given in conformity to your orders. The prices asked for beef are more moderate than they have been. Major Jackson informs me that at Hopkinsville and Gallatin it may be had at 3 3/4 to 4 cents. The price for corn is 40 cents. We have not able to accumulate a sufficiency of corn for the supply of this place on account of the difficulty of bringing it in from the country, our means of transportation being not much more than is needed for the troops.
Apprehending that there might, notwithstanding the efforts of the quartermasters, be a deficiency, I have ordered the quartermaster at Nashville to send up 50,000 bushels. The price there is 60 cents, but I could not permit a sufficiency of supply to remain a matter of doubt.
For the same reason I have ordered the Government agents to kill and pack here from 5,000 to 8,000 hogs, besides salt beef and pork to be brought from Nashville and Clarksville, to make a supply for four months.
There has been among these people a great disinclination to take the Confederate currency, and this may have been the result of a hostile feeling towards the Confederacy, but at no time has this distrust been greater or different from that which always manifests itself among a rural population on the introduction of a paper currency of the value of which they have but limited means of acquainting themselves. They are certainly not responsible for the sudden fall of the currency, and I presume have not asked a greater discount than was established in our own cities.
The discount on the State and Confederate money may be presumed to have in a great measure been produced by the competition of our agents for purchasing meat in the buying of gold in Charleston, Savannah, Richmond, and New Orleans, in which cities it rose from November to 20th December from 15 to 38 per cent. It then fell to 22.
I beg leave to represent that the good policy of impressing supplies is not sustained by custom or experience. Whether among friends or foes it has always resulted prejudicially to the public interests. In an enemy's country they would place their supplies beyond reach or destroy them. To levy contributions in an enemy's country and purchase from the people at customary rates I should think the better course. Whenever the raising of supplies among our friends by impressment has been attempted it has always resulted in indiscriminate robbery by pretended agents of the Government. The pork purchased by Government agents has cost largely above the ordinary rates, and it is hoped they have secured an adequate supply. The high price offered by exciting the cupidity of those who are awaiting the result of the contest to take sides has induced them both within and beyond our lines to fatten their hogs and bring them to market, which they would not have done for the customary rates.