there for any ferry-boats or temporary bridges I may have to make, the work being done chiefly by soldiers or bushwhackers sentenced to labor on public works during the war.
I am happy to inform you that the discipline of the Indian forces has very much improved. The First Indian Regiment, which I had almost despaired of, after was added to my command, is now being drilled and taught every day, and is learning rapidly. They go through the common evolutions, by company or battalion, very creditably. The Third has always had schools of commissioned and non-commissioned officers, and I have been establishing them in the First and Second. Lieutenant-Colonel Dole, now in command of the First, is working in a creditable manner to secure these results.
The general health of the command is better than it has ever been since the Indian regiments were organized. Th small-pox broke out a few weeks ago and caused some alarm, but has not exceeded twelve or fifteen cases, three or four fatally. I have a quarantine hospital 1 mile from Hildebrand's Mill, and strict sanitary regulations in camp. Dr. Maynard, First Arkansas Cavalry, was appointed medical director, and I am getting hospital and sick arrangements in better shape. We are vaccinating throughout the command as rapidly as possible.
I have been a good deal embarrassed by the crowds of starving refugees from the Nation, or driven from the enemy's lines. The condition of my transportation drove me to the necessity of being very cautious, and while I have not been able to relieve all positive suffering, I have done what I could.
The rebels south of the Arkansas River have been giving the Chocktaws and Creeks corn and clothing, even, to keep them from turning over to the Government, as many of them have agreed to do in my communications with them. A small amount of means used now would save a Creek and Choctaw regiment (one of each), which we may otherwise have to fight this summer.
The Cherokees, whose demonstrations of loyalty last summer were partly instrumental in plunging them in their present misery, are sincerely loyal, but very much grieved because the refugees have not been sent back to the Nation, as promised them. I have been extremely careful not to promise them anything, only what I could perform, but they seem to hold me accountable for the promises of others.
I write this for your information, and for the information of the Department.
March is the planting month in the Indian Nation, and no crops are secure planted after that time. Not only as a question of justice to them, but policy as to holding and occupying the country, makes the restoration and raising of a crop desirable. Absent refugees will not give us the Indian country, save as an army covers it. The gates of Texas may be opened through the Indian country, in a country of friends, if it is judiciously and actively done. I feel that I am but doing my duty as an officer of the Government in urging instant action is such matters, and informing you of what presents itself. It would, indeed, be a great misfortune if any disaster should now happen to us in the Indian Nation.
During the winter I have held the line of the Arkansas River from Clarksville to Fort Gibson, my scouts and expeditions touching it every few days, and my force here holding the enemy in check. There are very many loyal men in Arkansas besides the two regiments in the district at Faytteville. I am assured that one or two others could be raised, raw, of course, at first, but making good soldiers in the end,