CAIRO, March 2, 1862.
Honorable DAVID DAVIS, Saint Louis:
DEAR SIR: As you are engaged in the business of investigating army contracts and frauds practiced on the Government, it may not be out of place for me to state a few facts as they have been told to me, and that by parties most interested. At the taking of Fort Henry there was a large amount of sugar, coffee, and rice captured, besides a lot of horses, wagons, and other property. Now I would like to know who is to take charge of the property captured from the enemy. In the case above mentioned the property went into the hands of the quartermaster of one of the Illinois regiments, and he turned it over to the sutlers (the sugar, coffee, and rice), and the sutlers repacked the goods in barrels, with different marks, so as to deceive the steamboatmen, and shipped them to Cairo, and from there to Bloomington, Ill. I asked one of the sutlers what the sugar, coffee, and rice cost them, and he said the coffee cost 8 cents per pound, the sugar 4 cents per pound, and the rice about 2 cents per pound; and when I asked him how they came to get them so cheap, he said that they (the sutlers) were to run it off and divide the profits with the quartermaster. One of the sutlers bought at jackass, but whom from I am not informed, for $7. They say if he can get him home he will be worth $500 or $600. The sutlers were here when they heard of the surrender of Fort Donelson, and they were in a great hurry to get up there, for fear property would all be gone before they got there.
If you can have the patience to read a little further I will try to explain how it is all done. Colonel John Cook, of Springfield, has command of a brigade, and when there is any property captured he puts his own regiment in the lead, and therefore the property goes into the hands of his quartermaster, and the Government is none the better for it. They say if Cook can get a brigadier's commission-and they think he will-they can make $6,000 by just such operations as the sugar, coffee, and rice operation. When they come to ship this sugar, coffee, and rice to Cairo, Colonel Cook gives them a free pass for them and their goods to Cairo, and Cook takes the pass to a Mr. G. W. Graham and gets him to indorse it, though I don't think Graham knew what they were doing; and, further, they tell me that Cook has no part of the profits, but is very clever and accommodating to his friends, one of whom is a personal friend of Cook's, and lives at Springfield, Ill.
These same sutlers are selling whisky at the most extravagant prices ever heard of-$1.50 per bottle, which is about $9 per gallon.. There have been lots of property carried off by individuals, such a dirks, pistols, guns of every description, rifles, double-barreled shot-guns, Sharp's rifles, &c.
If all the property captured from the enemy could be taken care of and sold for what it would bring it would put several thousand dollars into the Treasury, where it is so much needed. There are a great many other little things I would like to mention, but I fear your patience will be exhausted before you get through reading so long a letter and of so little interest.
Hoping things will all come right in the end, I remain, respectfully, yours,