Since that action everything has been done that could be done to destroy the confidence of the Indians in myself. The absent, it is said, are always wrong.
After the engagements at Elkhorn, Western Arkansas being wholly abandoned to the enemy, I was forced to select a point for headquarters where an enemy could not, upon an open road in my rear, cut me off from Red River and Texas, to which alone I could look for supplies. The lines of the Arkansas and Canadian became untenable, when the enemy could at any moment occupy Fort Smith. I came to this place, 30 miles from Red River, and here determined to erect field-works, within which the Indians could have confidence to fight, and into which I could call, upon an invasion by the enemy, raw troops hastily raised in Texas. The quartermaster and commissary did not reach here until a month after I did,and during that time I was general, quartermaster, commissary, and half a dozen clerks. I resorted to the Indian funds remaining in my hands, and then to my own, the latter to the amount of nearly $20,000.
By paying for provisions purchased in small quantities, for horses for the artillery, and otherwise, I succeeded in establishing the credit of the command and Government beyond Red River, where the latter, it is said, had never paid anything. The Cherokees and Creeks, at first discontented at my returning here, became satisfied and rejoined their regiments. I overcame, in great measure, the disinclination of the Texas to work. The field-works advanced with reasonable speed, and peace and order prevailed, not only in the camps, but all over the country. I have not even found it necessary to proclaim martial law, except in the immediate vicinity of the camps.
I have recited these facts that, through you, they may reach the President, and be my justification, if I determine to decline further responsibility for what I cannot help.
It is quite evident that I need not expect to receive any further supplies of men, arms, or ammunition, or to retain any I do receive, if they are needed elsewhere. I confess I am discouraged. All my toil ends in nothing. We are confessing our weakness too palpably to these Indians, breaking our promises to them, withdrawing our handful of troops from their country, and telling them we are unable to arm, clothe, or pay them. They never should have been asked to go out of their own country to help us fight out battles. They are a little people, and we promised to protect them. I promised we would do it; Congress promised it; the President promised it.
We ought not to have placed any troops here, or we ought not to take them away. You, general, know some of them, and how acute and reflecting, though silent, they are. On the 30th of June their annuities are due again. Nothing will be done toward paying them. Here is another source of dissatisfaction. They ask me for clothing, and I have none; for money, and I have no been able to get more than a pair to every 50 men; for ammunition, and I can hardly furnish a quarter of a pound to a man. Any one who is to manage this Indian country must have some independence of action. No one at a distance can do it all. The moment the Indians find that the person who deals with them is a subordinate, receiving peremptory orders, from a distance, from some other one on whom the performance of his promises depends, their confidence in him and respect for him is gone. If this had not been made a department, I should have resigned at Richmond. Not to be able to exercise one's own judgment there is to be nothing.