HEADQUARTERS DISTRICT OF THE FRONTIER,
Fort Smith, Ark., December 9, 1863.
Brigadier General WILLIAM STEELE,
Near Doaksville, Ind. T.:
GENERAL: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your note under date of the 3rd instant, by flag of truce. Considering that it may be among the possibilities that you have sent this flag and detail under some arrangement with local authority, made previous to my assuming command, I have extended to them the usual courtesies due by belligerents to flags of truce from the enemy. But I have entirely ignored their official character; have placed them under guard, and ordered them to commence at 9 a. m. to-morrow their return beyond the Federal lines.
I have the further honor to suggest to you that matters of family, personal, and individual interest only are not proper subjects of intercourse by a flag of truce between hostile armies. Important and necessary business communications, and such only as may be requisite under the laws of civilized warfare, and for the interests of our common humanity, can from hereafter be the subjects of our correspondence by flags of truce. Any further detail sent by you or any other Confederate authority under a flag of truce, under any pretext similar to that one on which the flag of truce arrived to-day, will be detained and considered a hostile force irregularly within our lines.
I am, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
PRIVATE.] FORT SMITH, ARK., December 10, 1863.
GENERAL: Everything seems to be moving along regularly in this district. General Blunt is still here, and his immediate friends are urging every effort to promote his interests and advancement. Still, all their efforts are of a subdued nature. We have no more of that noisy insolence so much in vogue when General Blunt was first relieved.
The opinion generally prevails that Blunt is hand-in-glove with some of the army speculators hereabouts, but General McNeil tells me that he has failed to find evidence sufficient to warrant action. Of course, Blunt and his friends still claim that he is not under your orders nor subject to your authority; neither do they fail to assault you in every conceivable manner, but this circle is rapidly narrowing down, numerically speaking. The "Blunt circle" may be select; it certainly is not numerous.
General McNeil is warmly your friend, and is working faithfully and energetically. I believe his administration will be a complete success.
General Blunt announces that he is going to Kansas in "the course of time." He holds that he had to come here to turn over the command to General McNeil, and also to attend to his recruiting business. General McNeil does not think either cause justified him in coming here; neither does any other sensible person.
I will endeavor to let nothing of importance to you escape my observation along the line of my route, and on my return will give you the benefit of my observation and experience. I hope to be through here the first of next week, and shall return by the way of Fort Scott.