HDQRS.8TH AND 9TH DIST., DEPT. OF THE MISSOURI, Camp Curtis, Ark., January 29, 1863.
Commanding Department of the Missouri:
SIR: The scout I sent into the Nation, under Lieutenant-Colonel Downing, has returned. They distributed the flour and meal I sent to the most needy. He reports great destination in the Nation. Some women he supplied had not eaten grain or bread for two days. The transportation and other means here are too limited to do all that is required, but what can be done will be.
Owing up the difficulty of procuring forage, and the distance wheat has to be hauled, and having to run a number of small and indifferent water mills at considerable distance apart, and sending scouts to the Arkansas River, I have to work the force and trains to the extent of their ability.
The brigade train turned over to me was a miserable affair - thirty wagons, without a single over, and four broken-down mules to a team. They were the refuse rejected by the regiments at Elm Springs when the transportation was cut down.
Colonel Harrison has just informed me that Lieutenant-Colonel Stuart, of the Tenth Illinois, who was sent on the scout to Van Buren, had entered that place and taken a number of prisoners. I directed him to send a reconnaissance some distance down the Clarksville road, and also to send spies from the Arkansas men into Clarksville. I have not yet heard from Clarksville definitely, the rumor being that some forces are there.
My object in sending scouts to the Arkansas River is to keep straggling bands of the enemy on the other side until the ground already covered is fully occupied.
Colonel [Stand] Watie is extremely anxious to get some of his command back into the Cherokee Nation. When I burned Fort Davis all of General Cooper's forces fled toward Red River; but a force was sent back a few days ago, and just as Colonel Dowing went down they attempted to cross (some of [J. M.] Bryan's men at Fort Gibson and Watie's at Webber's Falls). Hearing of the scout, they precipitately recrossed the river. The great destitution and scarcity of forage renders it difficult for them, as forces, to enter or travel the country.
I deem it proper to communicate to you that there is a proposed meeting of the Cherokee council and committee. In the Second and Third Indian Regiments are a quorum of these bodies, and other loyal citizens not in the army are near or with it. I think it desirable that the representative bodies of the Nation should meet. The acting chief, Captain Pegg, is here. I understand they propose rescinding the ordinance of secession, that was forced on them, and of other actions of a similar nature, and loyal demonstrations to the Government will likely follow. I shall move across the line into the Nation when it convenes, to protect them. The extreme anxiety of the rebel forces to get back into the Nation is to prevent such official action. So far as it can be done consistently with my military duties, I deem it better to accord my aid to a movement just in itself and significant for the future as regards the whole Indian Territory.
I am, with respect, your obedient servant,
WM. A. PHILLIPS,
Colonel, Commanding Third Brigade.