HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF THE GULF,
December 24, 1862
Major General H. W. HALLECK, General-in-Chief:
GENERAL: No important change has occurred since my last dispatch. Some changes have been made in the disposition of the troops. The black regiments have been ordered to garrison the forts in connection with white companies, as also at Ship Island. It was deemed advisable to strengthen somewhat the garrisons thus enabling me to concentrate more completely the available forces for ulterior movements. The blacks are also in better position for themselves and the Government. General Emory arrived on the 22nd. His command is at Carrollton, but will move up the river immediately. General Grover's reports are forwarded with this mail. Nothing important has occurred there during the week. The troops are organizing and drilling with success and are in the best spirits. There has been considerable difficulty in obtaining exact information of the condition and localities of the forces here and in consolidating the new and the old regiments. This has been accomplished in a satisfactory manner. The schedule of division and brigade organizations will be forwarded.
The labor of receiving and receipting for the stores and supplies and of private property held by the Government has been very great. The condition of affairs here made it necessary that a minute examination and record should be made of all property receipted for, in order that my officers should be able to start with full understanding of their responsibilities and duties. Many things of great importance not immediately connected with military operations have occupied my attention since my arrival. General Butler has afforded me all the assistance I could ask.
Applications have been made for permission to transport 500 laborers to Vera Cruz. I have not thought it consistent with the interests of the Government, and have declined to give permission. Application has been made also to purchase and transport mules to Mexico for the use of the French Government. Admiral Reynaud, commodore of the French fleet, among others, has asked the consent of the Government for this purpose. I decline all these propositions on the ground that they are needed here. If other views are entertained at Washington I hope to receive instructions.
We have no news from Vicksburg yet. Port Hudson remains as at my last dispatch. We hope to move up the river at the close of this week. There are about 5,000 men at Mobile. Reports are in circulation as to the iron vessels said to be in preparation at Selma. It is ascertained with considerable certainty that the railroad between Jackson and Selma is not completed. It has been reported otherwise. There is great destitution among the people and troops. A deserter from Mobile as late as Friday last says, "If no relief is furnished them soon the people will call for the assistance of our Government." From the same source we get information of the concentration of all their strength at Vicksburg and Port Hudson.
Great apprehension has been felt here among the planters and others on account of threatened movements by the slaves at Christmas and New Year. The French admiral and the French consul have called my attention to this subject. It seemed proper on general grounds that the President's proclamation of September 22 should be promulgated here, and the exigencies of the hour made it more necessary. I have therefore given it official publication, with explanations and instruc-