with him to Vicksburg. On my return to Alexandria, which place I reached on the evening of Wednesday, the 29th, receiving no advices from General Mouton of the landing of the enemy or of the subsequent events on the La Fourche, I the next day went down the Red River, with an engineer officer, to examine and select a site for the construction of a work for the defense of that river. It was only on my return to Alexandria from this trip, on the evening of Friday, the 31st, that I received a communication from General Mouton, announcing simply the fact of the landing of the enemy, though by telegraph and couriers information could reach me from the La Fourche in thirty-six hours.
On the next day I received by this means a dispatch from him from the west side of Berwick Bay, informing me that my presence here was needed. On the next morning, which was Sunday, the 2nd instant, I left Alexandria for this point and arrived here on Thursday, the 6th. A careful inspection of the position occupied by the troops here leads me to indulge the hope that I can hold it successfully against the force which he made arrangements to bring forward every additional man I can command. But from the topography of this portion of Louisiana, permeated by so many navigable streams, it must be obvious to the department that the rich district bordering on the Teche, including the salt mines on Marsh Island, of incalculable value to the Confederacy, will eventually fall into the hands of the enemy unless I receive considerable accessions of force, both in men and guns.
The possession of Berwick Bay by the enemy renderers the attempt possible by him to move with his gunboats up the Atchafalaya to red River. Had the alterations upon the steamer Cotton been completed in season, or had the gunboats Mobile and Saint Mary been permitted to remain at the bay, its entrance by the enemy would have been prevented at this time. In view of the contingency I have mentioned, of an attempt to move up the Atchafalaya, I have ordered a work to be put up on that river, for which I shall need guns, which I urgently appeal to the Department to have sent to me without delay, there being no heavy guns witching this district, except a few abandoned in the forts around Berwick Bay on the fall of New Orleans. I also renew the request to have the Mobile and Saint Mary sent down from the Yazoo to the mouth of Red River, so as to be ready to enter the Atchafalaya at the first rise of those rivers. I have no reason to apprehend that the use of the salt mines can be materially interfered with by the enemy for the present. By the aid of a short portage from the Teche to the Atchafalaya the water conveyance of salt to the east side of the Mississippi can, I trust, be preserved.
It will be noticed that General Mouton mentions in his report the presence of some regiments of militia in the operations on the La Fourche. I found these troops engaged in protecting that part of the State on my first arrival there. As fast as their places could be supplied by regular organizations in the Confederate service I made arrangements to cause them to be disbanded, in order that the conscprits among them might be brought into the camp of instruction within the least possible delay. The straggling to their homes of such of them as were in service at the time of the retreat of the forces from the La Fourche shows the impolicy of employing troops in the immediate vicinity of their own homes, and, in this connection, the Department should be made acquainted with the fact that the exemption act passed by the present Congress practically puts an end to the further operations of the conscript act in Louisiana, since the almost exclusively agricultural character of its population