HELENA, ARK., October 20, 1862.
Honorable E. M. STANTON,
Secretary of War, Washington, D. C.:
SIR: When I parted with you in Washington City I supposed that before this time our army would have been in possession of all the northern part of this State; that our lines would have been advanced to the Arkansas River, and that a considerable portion of that part of the State south of the Arkansas River would also be in our possession. The people of this State were expecting all this to occur, and some of the most violent rebels had retired from the field and were quietly awaiting at their homes the time when the authority of the United States would be extended over them. The arbitrary and tyrannical acts of General Hindman, who till the middle of August last was in disgusted many. The destruction of cotton and sugar, the property of individuals, by his orders and by his troops, among other acts, had caused this dissatisfaction. The conscript law was being enforced by him with extreme vigor and great severity. But unfortunately for us the army did not them move. In my opinion no further delay should be made in taking possession of this State.
It appears this army has been kept at this post two months and more to enable speculators and officers of the army to enrich themselves by buying cotton from loyal and disloyal men and from negroes who did not own it. If reports are true, the commandant of third department whilst in command of the Army of the Southwest made " a good thing of it." For more information on this point call for the report of Judge Baker to Colonel William Myers, assistant quartermaster at Saint Louis, Mo.
It is also reported that Colonel (now General) Hovey, of Illinois, who had some "contrabands" in his camp belonging to some persons in the State of Mississippi, exchanged them for cotton, giving two "niggers" for a bale of cotton. This I suppose is not returning negroes to their masters, but fair and legitimate trade, in the opinion of that colonel. For information on this point call for report above referred to.
Before I left the city of Saint Louis it was reported to me that Major-General Curtis delayed a movement to the interior of this State because I was not present to march with the army. I had previously communicated with him, and was informed a delay of a few days in joining him would make no difference. When I had information of that report I immediately repaired to this place, reported to him, and urged a movement on Little Rock. Cotton and cotton buying was the order of the day. The general said he had not supplies to march on Little Rock; that he awaited orders, &c. After a short time leave of absence was granted to General Curtis.
General Steele, by succession, became the commander of this army. Upon inquiry he found he had not adequate supplies for the army. He sent for such as were needed. He ordered the army to be prepared for a march. Though it was much demoralized by the want of discipline which prevailed, and by the troops having been employed to aid, not the Government of United States, but speculators in cotton, yet arrangements were rapidly made for the advance of this army to the interior of the State. If General Steele had been permitted to carry out his plans this army would now have been in Little Rock.
But this intended movement was arrested by the order of General Curtis to General Steele to march with a portion of the army to Pilot