HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF THE MISSISSIPPI,
Corinth, Miss., June 25, 1862.
Honorable E. M. STANTON,
Secretary of War, Washington, D. C.:
SIR: The sanitary condition of this army is a matter of serious consideration, and one to which I have given as much attention as my other occupations would admit.
On arriving at Pittsburg Landing just after the battle I found the sick lists in the armies of General Grant and General Buell enormous. An immediate change of position seemed of imperative necessity, and yet our means of transportation were so very limited and the roads in such a terrible condition that it would be impossible to provision them at any considerable distance from the Tennessee River. To remedy this difficulty as rapidly as possible I made large details for building roads and bridges and ordered the cavalry to pack on their horses all forage to their camps, using the wagons only for transporting provisions.
On reaching the higher land a few miles south of the plain of Shiloh a decided improvement was observed in the health of the command. The issue of whisky rations mixed with quinine, under the judicious advice of Dr. McDougall, assisted much in this change.
Moreover the employment of the men in building roads, throwing up intrenchments, and doing picket duty in the face of an active enemy served as a diversion from the ordinary duty of camp, and contributed not a little to the diminution of the sick lists.
Nevertheless the injudicious conduct of State Sanitary Commissions and State Governors, who visited the regimental camps and publicly offered free passages home to all who were sick, took off thousands of soldiers who were either well enough at the time or would have been in a few days to perform their duties.
I found it very difficult to remedy this evil without giving serious offense to men who came here, as they believed, on an errand of mercy and charity. Their intentions were undoubtedly good, but the effect was exceedingly injurious to the efficiency of the army.
Since the evacuation of Corinth and pursuit of the enemy south our army has been comparatively in good condition. The question now arises, can it be kept so during the summer? Or, in other words, can we carry on any summer campaign without having a large portion of our men on the sick list?
If we follow the enemy into the swamps of Mississippi there can be no doubt that our army will be disabled by disease. And yet to lie still, doing nothing, will not be satisfactory to the country nor conducive to the health of the army. I have therefore deemed it best under the circumstances to establish a strong corps of observation a few miles south of this place, on high timbered ridges in the vicinity of clear streams and springs of water. Such positions have been found and are now occupied by General Pope's army.
General Grant's army has been mainly occupied along the railroads to Memphis and Columbus and driving guerrilla parties out of West Tennessee.
As soon as this work is completed they can best guard the railroads by occupying positions at or near Hernando, Holly Springs, and Ripley. These places are on a plateau which is said to be the most healthy part of Mississippi.
Re-enforcements have already been ordered to General Curtis on the White River, and others will soon be sent. If that river is not found to be navigable at this season of the year we shall open the railroad