the enemy, and that a force retreating on that line was liable to be cut off by a movement on Ripley, Holly Springs, or Oxford by the enemy.
Fort Pillow could not have been maintained longer, except by a sacrifice of its garrison. The general does not remember the armament or garrison, but thinks the latter numbered about 2,000 or 2, 5000 men. Its land defenses had been constructed (before he took charge) for a defense by about 10,000 men. It could, as garrisoned, have been reduced by a proper of the enemy, say about 10,000 men.
I asked the general whether seven locomotive and sixty-three cars, loaded with bacon and medical stores, had not been lost in the retreat, and also as to the circumstances of the loss. He admitted seven locomotives and five trains (three loaded and two unloaded box cars),but declined to express an opinion in regard to their contents and destructions, as the circumstances were undergoing in- vestigation and he knew nothing positive on the subject.
The general says he did not suffer much loss from actual desertion, and that our forces reported to him by commanders of corps were nearly the same immediately after our arrival at Tupelo as when we left Corinth, and is now still increasing by convalescents returning. Finally, he informed me that the morale of the troops was not injured by the retreat, but that they are in good spirits and satisfied with the wisdom of the movement.
In the course of the conversation the general requested me to call the President's attention to necessity of conferring on generals in the field the power of summarily dismissing officers who are incompetent and unworthy. I suggested to him that such arbitrary action was a high prerogative, and that suspension until the action of the Executive could be learned seemed to me to furnish a remedy. He said the power was necessary, and that his reports on important matters to Richmond often did not effective prompt attention. The general also complained of the elective feature of the conscript act, and said it had nearly demoralized and disorganized his army. He thinks strong measures will have to be used to improve the present organization of his army.
The general inquired of me to what end my mission to him tended, and said that if any shadow of doubt rested in the mind of the Executive as to the propriety of the movement in retreat he would ask for a court of inquiry. He was willing to repose his reputation on this movement, and considered it equivalent to a brilliant victory, considering the relative condition and numbers of the two contending armies. I replied that the President had not selected me for a channel to express distrust to the general, but for the purpose of obtaining for him full information in regard to the matters discussed, of which he had received little or not authentic information when I left Richmond. My letter of instructions and authority and my orders to inspect the army, which had been submitted to the general, comprised the extent of my mission.
I expressed to General Beauregard my thanks for the patience and courtesy with he had explained to me, as above, the points suggested by me for explanation. He referred me for fuller details of the above transaction and facts to his staff.
WM. PRESTON JOHNSTON,
Colonel,and Aide-de-Camp to the President.
A true and approved.
G. T. BEAUREGARD,