OFFICE BRIGADE QUARTERMASTER,
Fort Brown, Tex., May 4, 1863.
Lieutenant Col. H. C. McNEILL,
Inspector-General, Brownsville, Tex.:
COLONEL: In compliance with your request I have the honor to submit for your consideration my views in regard to the supply of the army on the Rio Grande:
In the first place I feel authorized to say that negotiations can be made in this city and Matamoras, with reliable and responsible mercantile houses, by which every article in each one of the departments (quartermaster's, subsistence, ordnance, and medical), can be obtained on reasonable terms, in quantities sufficient to supply the entire Trans-Mississippi Department, provided we can devise some plan by which the Government, through its agents, can with certainly transport and concentrate at convenient depots in the interior cotton to meet the payments promptly.
It is to the accomplishment of this that I would direct your attention particularly, believing that the present policy in regard to purchases based upon cotton will result not only in disappointment in procuring what we need but detrimental to the credit of the Government; in a word, it is wholly impracticable, in my opinion, for the following reasons:
1st. The distance from this, the only point for the exportation of cotton, to the cotton growing sections of the State is from 300 to 600 miles, over a country destitute of grass with no facilities to procure forage. It is therefore not only impracticable but impossible for animals to travel this distance through such a country and arrive at their destination within a reasonable time.
2nd. The great scarcity of transportation, in connection with the demand by speculators, Government contractors, &c., who effer exorbitant rates payable in specie, renders it impracticable to obtain transportation for a sufficient quantity of cotton to meet the wants and liabilities of the Government.
3rd. I deem it impossible for any one man to successfully discharge the duty this policy imposses upon the officer selected for that purpose. When you take into consideration the vast area country over which he has to travel, first to purchase the cotton, secondly to procure transportation, and lastly to return to Brownsville, sell the cotton, and to attend to the investment of its proceeds and the introduction of supplies, it appears to me that a moment's reflection will prove the correctness of my position. If a doubt, however, should exist I would respectfully call your attention to the fact that this agent been actively engaged for the past five months, clothed with every facility the commanding general could grant him, and with all these resources and his known energy only 40 bales of cotton have yet reached the Rio Grande. This result clearly demonstrates the impracticability of the present policy, and the question arises how is this to be remedied? I will reply by making the following suggestions:
First. Establish depots at Goliad, San Antonio, and Santa Gertrudes: concentrate the cotton purchased by the Government at each of these points, and appoint suitable agents to attend to its preservation and delivery. This will avoid to a great extent the difficulty in obtaining transportation. Negro labor can be employed in hauling to each one of the above-named points when it could not with safety be sent to the Rio Grande, and Mexican teamsters and teams could be employed to transport this cotton from thence to Brownsville.