WAR DEPARTMENT, C. S. A., Richmond, Va., March 21, 1862.
Major General LEONIDAS POLK,
SIR: I have the honor of acknowledging the receipt of your letter* informing me of the evacuation of Columbus, and congratulate you on the successful accomplishment of your plans. I had scarcely ventured to hope they would be so entirely successful as to secure all the artillery.
In answer to your letters about the promotion of certain officers, addressed to the President and General Cooper, I beg to assure you that there has been at all times the most earnest desire on the part of the Department to accede to your wishes; but there are limits placed by the law on its power to create or promote officers which you would be the last to desire me to overstep.
I have promoted Captain Blake to provisional rank as lieutenant-colonel, and promoted Lieutenant James A. Smith to the grade of major after conference with the President, and this is all that can be done.
You are mistaken about the examples to which you refer. General Slaughter was only a major when on the staff of General Bragg, and Colonel Jordan's, as such, was prior to the law allowing assistant adjutants-general. The result is as follows:
The assistant adjutant-general to a brigadier-general is captain; the assistant adjutants-general to a major-general is major, and the assistant adjutant-general to a general is lieutenant-colonel.
I have, therefore, as you see, gone beyond the rule in making your assistant adjutant-general a lieutenant-colonel. In promoting Lieutenant Smith I am also giving you an addition to your staff beyond that of any major-general in the service, for you have Williamson already. You are entitled, strictly, but to one assistant adjutant-general and two aides.
I only state these things to remove an impression under which you evidently labor that I have discretion to appoint as many officers as you find necessary or useful. You would not, I know, abuse such a discretion if it existed; but could the same be said of all?
The enemy are gathering around us in immense masses. I know not what may be the immediate result, but my confidence was never higher, brighter, nor firmer than at this moment that the consummation of our struggle is to be speedy, prosperous, and glorious.
Your obedient servant,
J. P. BENJAMIN,
Acting Secretary of War.
CORINTH, March 21, 1862.
General A. SIDNEY JOHNSTON:
Transportation sent as desired. Your agents not sufficiently explicit in giving orders. Can supply you largely. Engagement at Eastport yesterday with two gunboats. They retired after twenty shots. We need cavalry there and here.
*See Series I, Vol. VII, p. 437.