for want of coal that I cannot send any vessel away. I think it necessary that more gunboats be ordered to the river. I am anxious regarding the tug I sent for a coal vessel on last Friday morning, and she has not yet returned; and by your orders I cannot leave this point. I find it necessary to go to Washington at the earliest moment, to arrange for supplies for the flotilla. My second in command, and the gunboats, will remain to your orders until my return. Please forward the inclosed telegram. I will await your answer to this communication.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
E. P. McCREA,
Washington City, December 2, 1862.
Major General AMBROSE E. BURNSIDE,
Commanding Army of the Potomac:
GENERAL: The sutler question present much difficulty, and is pressing. The Secretary of War had devolved the whole matter upon this office, so far as the authority of the War Department is required.
Transportation of sutlers' supplies by water to a blockaded port can be carried on only as a military supply to the army without involving the Government in disputes with foreign powers. Hence, before the Secretary of the Treasury will grant a clearance, he requires a permit from the War Department.
The permits have heretofore been much abused, and a large contraband trade has been carried on under cover of these permits and clearances. Rules are being prepared which it is hoped may in some degree control the trade and prevent these abuses.
The officers and the men need the sutlers, and desires to trade with them in articles which the law prohibits. The Quartermaster-General gives permits only according to law. All liquors are prohibited by law. Hence the sutler is too often encouraged to smuggle by the officers themselves.
There are not less than 150 to 200 sutlers attached to your army. As the facilities for landing and the space for loading wagons at Aquia Creek and Belle Plain are so small that it is with great exertion alone that regular rations, forage,and quartermaster's and commissary's stores required for your army can be debarked there, and as it is of the greatest importance to accumulate with that army a certain number of days' regular supplies, as active operations must wait for their accumulation, I have refused to grant any permit to a sutler to clear a vessel for either of those places until advised by the chief quartermaster that there is room. The 200 sutlers will want at least one hundred vessels, and the manner in which they would fill up your harbor can be readily appreciated by you. The confusion they would create would seriously impede the regular supply of your army, as any one engaged in the task can explain to you.
I believe that some sutlers have hauled their goods from Alexandria to the camp by land. If they could proceed in regular trains, and be guarded by troops, this would be proper enough; but if they are allowed to pass our picket lines unguarded this will soon grow into a large smuggling trade. The goods will be deposited in safe hiding places, and smuggled across the lines, or arrangements will be made by which wagons, horses, and goods will be captured, and the sutler or
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