PRIVATE.] HDQRS. 8TH AND 9TH DISTS., DEPT. OF THE Mc.,
In the Field, Camp at Bentonville, March 3, 1863.
Major- General CURTIS:
The enemy have given furloughs to April 1. They are rapidly calling all soldiers in. Marmaduke's forces are being recalled. Marmaduke in person was at Arkadelphia when last heard from. Part of his command (Shelby's brigade) was at Batesville a few days ago, preparing for some movement. Brooks' brigade, which includes Carroll's regiment, now in Van Buren, amounts to some 1,200 men, and they have a battery (West's) of four brass pieces, two of them rifled, good guns. Carroll's regiment crossed the Arkansas at the mouth of Mulberry, and went southwest, a week ago, on the rumor of an approaching scout from my command. The regiment is often called 500. A spy of mine saw them cross. It took from 10 a. m. till 5 p. m.; counted 285 mounted men. They recrossed the river, and entered Van Buren, last Friday. The troops near Fort Smith changed camps four days ago; part are 2 miles from Fort Smith, beyond the powder mill; the rest between Fort Smith and Van Buren, south side. If I could seize one or two boats, to cross and recross rapidly with, I have force enough to thrash all, I think, they can bring there for a couple of weeks yet. Independent of Brooks' command, the force at Fort Smith is the debris of five infantry regiments, with from 600 to 900 men for duty. Colonels Watie's and Bryan's battalions, made into one regiment, under William Penn Adair, I do not think exceed 500 men. These likely would reach Fort Smith if threatened. I would also have to calculate on forces being sent up the river, which is bank full. At Little Rock there are five regiments (infantry), probably not over 1,200 men for duty.
The enemy holds Clarksville, although they have made several stampedes out of it, on report of y scouts approaching. Their passage from Clarksville to Fort Smith is over the debatable ground, and they move rapidly, and rarely stay long on this side of the river. A scout last night reports the infantry at Fort Smith crossing the river doubtful. The rebel hospital at Cane Hill, which has been a spy den inside of our lines, I have detected in sending dispatches to the commanding officer at Fort Smith, informing him of all my movements. I ordered it south of Arkansas River within five days; and Captain Anderson (Third Indian Regiment), with a force, is between Cane Hill and Dutchtown, watching the re- establishment until it is gone. Captain McCoy, (Arkansas troops) is at Dripping Springs, 12 miles from Van Buren. Another company is at the head of Lee's Creek. Lieutenant Walker (Sixth Kansas) is at Cincinnati, to support Anderson. I review and inspect Arkansas troops at Fayetteville on the 5th instant.
The enemy succeeded in running up their boats and landing cargoes of corn. Two others loaded, got scared, and went back. Fort Smith and Van Buren were starving. I sent 600 men and two pieces of artillery to take the boats. They did not succeed, although sent with full information and with ample time. Roads belly- deep in mud. I will report case by mail.
The enemy is exercised by the subsisting of the Indian Nation. One of the boat- loads of corn was for the Choctaws. If wanted to take it before it reached them, but not afterward.
All the men I could get at Fayetteville were 100 mounted men. Stock is too low, but I have spies at every point on the river, and will see that no more boats get up. I want permission to go and take any others that may attempt to run up, and run them up the river. Also to move