HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF THE GULF,
New Orleans, January 15, 1863.
Major General N. P. BANKS,
Commanding Department of the Gulf:
GENERAL: There is now working in this department 316 miles of telegraph, constituting five separate lines radiating from New Orleans.
Of the above 57 miles have been added since you assumed command of the department. The whole of this is working well, but the condition is not satisfactory, owing chiefly to the temporary character of repairs. There is no material in this department to repair old or build new lines except pieces of old and mutilated telegraphs, and all that has been received here since the occupation of this city are instruments, which will not exceed $200 in value. We shall hardly get old material enough to finish the line to Donaldsonville, a distance of about 5 miles. I exceedingly regret that until we are in receipt of material it will be impossible to push the lines forward to desired points.
The city police and fire telegraphs are not included in foregoing. Repairs are now going forward which will render them entirely reliable. This (city) department is well supplied with instruments and material, the entire expense of which is borne by the city government of New Orleans.
I respectfully submit the above, and have the honor to subscribe myself, your most obedient servant,
CHAS. S. BULKLEY,
Assistant Superintendent U. S. Military Telegraphs.
NEW ORLEANS, January 15, 1863.
LieutenantCol. RICHARD B. IRWIN,
Assistant Adjutant-General, Dept. of the Gulf:
SIR: I have the honor to transmit herewith a report of the number and approximate strength of the various cavalry companies in this department.
The maximum number of mounted and equipped men now in the field cannot exceed 635, or the one-eightieth of the entire army. As these are scattered at various posts and are insufficient for vedette duty, all expeditions and reconnaissances must needs be carried on by infantry, while no country presents a fairer field for the employment of cavalry than this State. It is level; all tracts which are dry, having been tilled, are free from obstacles, whilst the swamps are alike impassable for the three arms.
Should the Mississippi, which is rapidly rising, break through one of the many weak points in the levees and spread over the country to the depth only of one foot, our infantry would necessarily be confined to the camps, and the parishes where the inhabitants have taken the oath of allegiance left open to the raids of the enemy's mounted force, which, according to report, amounts to several thousand. With a moderate proportional cavalry force expeditions and aggression might be simultaneously made against the enemy's line of operations on Port Hudson and Clinton and New Orleans and Jackson Railroad, as also in the Opelousas country, where the rebel Legislature is in session.
Want of horses is the only obstacle to the proposed plan of selecting a small percentum of good horsemen from the infantry regiments for a provisional cavalry. Owing to the season of the year the risk is great