continually their line of communication from Port Hudson westward to Opelousas and Texas; that fearing this, the rebels are now fortifying on the Atchafalaya at a point called Butte-a-la-Rose; that if it should become necessary in future to operate on the Teche from this direction the crossing of Berwick Bay could not be made unless we controlled these waters; that if once driven out, profiting by past experience, they could fortify their bank, and not only annoy our railroad terminus on this, but make it extremely troublesome for gunboats to re-enter.
We cannot fortify on this side of the bay with a view to prevent them from fortifying on the other and running the blockade. It would take several batteries placed at intervals to do this, and in swampy ground, whereas they have high ground; and besides in a short time, in consequence of unrepaired breaks in the levee on the west bank of the river between Donaldsonville and Red River, the railroad will be overflown between Bayou La Fourche and Brashear City, and the only way to communicate with the forces stationed at the bay will be by the river and the Gulf of Mexico.
I therefore most respectfully ask you to lay these facts before the admiral and protest against the removal of so much naval force from these waters that it might hazard our supremacy over them. I honestly and frankly consider it my duty to do so.
The information that the New London is to be removed from Lake Pontchartrain and the sound compels me also to give you some information on the system of defense and security of New Orleans which I suggested on our arrival in the city to General Butler, and which has ever since been followed. It is as follows, viz: The land forces to occupy the four forts-Forts Jackson, Saint Philip, Pike, an Macomb; a small force in the city to preserve order; a sufficient force behind the lines at Carrollton (at Camp Parapet) or within easy reach by transports of those lines, to make them perfectly secure; the Navy to retain control of the river, and thus secure the left flank of our lines. They have kept the Portsmouth continually on the left of our lines. In addition, the Navy to keep control of Lake Pontchartrain and the sound, and thus protect our right flank, prevent contraband trade, and prevent raids by the enemy in boats or light-draught steamers from the opposite shore.
The New London has been kept continually on this duty and has effectually performed it. If she be now removed and no other boat ordered to replace her it would subject our whole long flank to the dangers mentioned. I consider it therefore my duty to cal the admiral's attention through you to this, fact, which I fear he has lost sight of.
New Orleans is too valuable a prize to be risked in any way. This disposition, which has thus far held it, requires a force not large for the service it performs, has given us a secure base, and thus enabled us always to employ our remaining land and naval forces for other operations without fear of losing our base and depots.
I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Brigadier-General, U. S. Volunteers.
HEADQUARTERS DISTRICT OF ARIZONA,
Mesilla, January 6, 1863
Major DAVID FERGUSON,
First Cavalry, California Volunteers, Franklin, Tex.;
On your present visit at Chihuahua it should not escape your recol-