mules are owned by private soldiers in the army not doing duty on horseback which were taken from citizens, and they justify their conduct by that of their officers.
When I reached here I urged on General Curtis a movement on Little Rock, but he declined to make it. The command of the army devolved on General Steele, who is exempt from the rumors to which I have referred (as are also the greater part of the general officers of this army). He found the army deficient in many supplies such as he deemed necessary. These have been obtained and he now proposes to move.
This town is filled with contrabands, who have been forcibly in many instances brought from their plantations--men, women, and children. Much sickness and mortality prevails amongst them.
A fort was commenced by General Curtis at this place, which the engineer in charge thinks will be of no service, and I suppose was commenced in order to give employment to the slaves. One gunboat in the river near the town will be of more service than this fort. There are two if not three hills in the vicinity which command the hill on which the fort is located. Free papers have been given by the late general commanding to many negroes, and in many instances to slaves who have never worked on fortifications, and whose masters have not been engaged in this rebellion. They we generally granted, as I am informed, on the statement of the negroes themselves. Some of these negroes are here and some of them have gone up the river.
The force in the interior of the State is reported 30,000 and upward, of every description. The largest body is stationed north of Little Rock about 20 miles, at Austin, a town on the line of the Little Rock and Cairo Railroad survey.
The rebels manufacture gunpowder, caps, and ammunition at Arkadelphia, on the Washita, about 60 miles from Little Rock.
At this time there is no large force on the northern line of this State. McBride was recently at Batesville with 2,200 (1,500 only effective), and marched in the direction of Greenville, Mo., via Pocahontas. Hindman was reported at Cross Hollows, Benton County, but was only about a week ago at Little Rock.
Now let General Schofield immediately advance from Springfield in the direction of Little Rock and this army move in that direction, as it will unless otherwise ordered.
The enemy may give us a fight at some point northeast of Little Rock. He will have a larger force than we shall have, but we must whip him. If so, he will retreat either to Arkadelphia, crossing Arkansas River at Crystal Hill, 20 miles above Little Rock, or retire toward Fort Smith, up the valley of the Arkansas. The rebels declare they will drive this army into the Mississippi River and march on Saint Louis.
The longer a movement is delayed in this State the more difficult it will be to obtain forage and other supplies from the country. The longer we delay a movement the less probability is there of recruiting for our army in the State and of desertion from their conscripts. It is rumored cattle are brought from Texas to this State. Now, if so, I believe they are designed for the army east of the Mississippi. General Joseph E. Johnson is assigned to the command of the rebel army west of the Mississippi. His name and presence to their army will be worth 5,000 men. I believe the force we can send from this point can whip the rebel army, yet the disparity in the force will be great. Every day's delay gives the enemy an opportunity to increase his numbers and to discipline his troops.