First is the vital matter of subsistence. Were supplies ample in our rear their transportation as wanted would be a most difficult affair with but the facilities of a single-track railway, but added to that is the fact that we have only about sixty days' rations of salt meat available, with no prospect of any addition. The supply of fresh meat is very limited and precarious, having to be drawn from a country with little or no surplus. The resources of Texas having been cut off before we received what was promised from there, nothing remains but to look to the grazing-grounds of Southern Alabama, Georgia, and Florida. An agent dispatched thither to procure beef cattle it is ascertained has been superseded by one sent by the Commissary-General. If we are to depend on the new agent I must suggest as prudent that he should take early means of gaining accurate knowledge of our wants and where those wants exist. Under every aspect I can but look to the future with concern.
Transportation is another matter of the gravest moment. So long as our operations were confined to the lines of the railroads in our possession we could dispense with large supply trains; but to make a forward movement now (and I hope no other will again be necessary) roads and wagons must be substituted. Our present supply of these means of mobility is only adequate for the baggage of the troops. Every effort is, however, being made to increase our means of transportation, and I shall trust that the sacrificing, intelligent patriotism of our people will soon and in time make up the deficiency. No movements, however favorable the opportunity, can be made without it. The country, I may add, between us and the Tennessee River is entirely destitute of any supplies. What out own troops had left has been seized by the enemy. We must, thereofre, move full-handed until we can reach his depots, which we know to be well supplied.
The next great want of this army is that of proper commanders for its sub-divisions. Since the battle of Shiloh (where we lost many of our best officers) the elective feature of the constrict law has driven from the service the best who remained, and to a great extent has demoralized the troops. So many of our general officers have been absent, wounded or sick, that it has been quite difficult to keep up any organization, especially as the whole number attached was short of the real wants of the service. Many recommendations made were not ratified, and some general officers appointed or promoted without recommendations from this quarter are only encumbrances and would be better out of the way. Of all the major-generals, indeed, in this army now present, since the transfer of Van Dorn, Breckinridge, and Hindman, but one (Hardee) can now be regarded as a suitable commander of that grade. Among the junior brigadiers we have some excellent material, but it is comparatively useless, being overshadowed. Could the Department by any wholesome exercise of power or policy relieve this army from a part of this dead-weight it would surely give confidence to the troops and add much to our efficiency. I acknowledge the difficulties in the way and the delicacy of the measure, but the safety of our cause may depend on it.
Recommendations for promotions and appointments are inclosed,* to which the speedy attention of the Department is invited.
Respectfully, your obedient servant,