Arkansas River practicable. My information is yet quite indefinite, but I do not think it probable that the enemy will make another stand north of Red River. Indeed, it seems to me probable that Kirby Smith's troops will go to Texas, to assist in the defense against General Banks.
An important question now presents itself, viz, whether we shall attempt to at once occupy the whole country, and restore the authority of the Government, or whether our army must be kept intact for operations against the enemy elsewhere. The latter, I take it, must be done, if necessary to the success of operations in other departments. The former is extremely desirable, and should be done, if possible. The rebel army west of the Mississippi is rapidly breaking up into small bands for guerrilla operations in the vicinity of their homes. Many of them have already returned into Missouri, and are now giving us some trouble. A large proportion of the State of Arkansas will remain as perfectly under rebel control as it has been heretofore, unless our troops are distributed over it so as to break up these guerrillas. they can be broken up now much more readily and certainly than at any future time, and if the State be fully occupied, a sufficient force of loyal Arkansas troops can soon be organized to hold the State. In this connection I respectfully request instructions as to what steps, if any, the Government desires me to take toward restoring a loyal civil government in Arkansas. The abolition of the office of military governor of the State leaves me in doubt as to what course is to be pursued.
Also permit me to suggest, general, that some more definite division of General Grant's department and mine is now desirable, if it can be made. The entire State of Arkansas was in this department up to the 21st of January last, when General Grant was authorized to assume command of all troops in the State of Arkansas within reach of his orders, the portion of that State occupied by such troops being temporarily attached to his department. This order being still in force, leaves the division between my department and that of General Grant undetermined.
General Steele's column, including the cavalry under General Davidson, commenced its operations from Helena, under the immediate orders of General Hurlbut, who received his instructions from me, though not himself under my command. I regard General Steele as still under General Hurlbut's command, even after he had crossed White River, and General Davidson's division as temporarily detached from my command. General Hurlbut construes our instructions differently, and informs me that he considers Steele's command as being in my department, and consequently under my immediate command.
This arrangement has caused no trouble heretofore, and need not necessarily cause any in future. But it is anomalous, nd somewhat embarrassing. It has hardly been possible to avoid this anomaly heretofore, and it is, perhaps, difficult even now. Yet as the Mississippi has now become our base for operations on both sides of it, instead of the important line of operation, it is not so objectionable as a dividing line of departments. On some accounts, it would be better that each department should embrace a certain extent of country on both sides of the river; but I do not see how such an arrangement can be made in the present case without serious difficulty in determining the department limits with that certainty which is necessary in a country which is to be occupied by a distributed force. I see no better arrangement that can now be made than to restore all of Arkansas to this department. I do not, however, wish to urge the matter, but simply to ask your attention to it.