HEADQUARTERS DISTRICT CENTRAL MISSOURI,
Syracuse, December 7, 1861.
Brigadier General G. W. CULLUM, Chief of Staff;
GENERAL: I have the honor to report, for the information of the general commanding the department, that it is reported to me on tolerably reliable authority that Price, with the greater part of his force, crossed the Osage yesterday morning, one division taking the Warsaw road, the other moving on Clinto. I shall know certainly before the mail goes our whether this information is correct, as also the exact position and about the strength of each division. The five companies of cavalry and two pieces of artillery sent to Warsaw yesterday morning were doubtless in that town early this morning. I shall hear from there to-night. There is as yet no news from the cavalry force sent north from Sedalia.
I have strong bodies of cavalry scouring the country for 15 miles north and south of this place. My pickets of cavalry are as far out as Cole Camp in the sout and Bell Air and Palestine in the north.
Each picket consists of one company of cavalry 80 strong.
I presume Price only intends to occuply the counties bordering the
north side of the Osage for subsistence, and to defeat this purpose it may be necessary to move against him in such force as will compel him to recross the river. I shall know in the course of the day whether such be his purpose.
From all the information I can gather I do not doubt that Price's force is greatly reduced, and that he is losing many more men by desertion and expiration of service than he is recruiting. It is more than probable that by maintaining our position in force in this section adn keeping the country scoured by our cavalry between the Missouri and Osage for a month or six weeks longer the greater part of his force will be dispersed. Many of his men have come in and asked to lay down their arms, promising to take them up no more. Of course such promises, even when accompanied by the oath of alelgiance, amount to nothing. One-half the men in this section of country have been thus sworn by one side or the other, but there are few of them who observe such oatsh.
The patrolling parties frequently capture men from Price's army who are at home on furlough or to recruit. I have many such prisoners. I would also say that I am fearful that important dispatches by telegraph are intrecepted between here and Saint Louis; that is, that they are taken off from the lines in course of transmitted and communicated to the enemy. It is easy with a short wire and instrument to do this at any point of the line, and I therefore very much dislike to send important news by telegraph, unless in cipher. A cipher has been made for this department, and I would respectfully suggest that it be used in all dispatches of importance.
I am, general, respectfully, your obedient servant,
ROLLA, Mo., December 7, 1861.
The following dispatch is just received from the commander of a re connoitering party sent out by me the 5th. From another source I learn