now. I can send out 5 men, and in one day they can get 15 armed citizens with them. I think citizens will keep them out from here in a short time. I let you know everything that goes on here. Some days I hear nothing from below, but I will keep posted on all matters of the least importance. I am not least uneasy about them getting the better of me here, unless they should happen to get in on me un-awares, and this I do not think they can do. We take all the precaution to guard against surprise that our force will allow, and three minutes is all the notice I want, unless I should have more men out on scouts than I would wish, but we will try to be ready to meet any emergency.
W. T. LEEPER,
Captain, Commanding Post.
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF ARKANSAS,
Little Rock, Ark., December 12, 1863.
Major General JOHN M. SCHOFIELD,
Commanding Department of the Missouri, Saint Louis, Mo.:
GENERAL: Your letter in regard to an advance, &c., and the copy of General Halleck's letter on the same subject have been received. It is true that my troops are scattered, but it would be very difficult to protect the interests of the loyal citizens, or to recruit to any considerable extent in Arkansas, if they should be more concentrated. You will recollect that my disposition of the forces is pretty nearly the same as that recommended by yourself and the General-in-Chief. It is very difficult now to prevent the rebels from overrunning the State, and, perhaps, making incursions into Missouri. Our existence depends upon the railroad between here and Devall's Bluff, and, notwithstanding the large force employed to protect it, the rebels succeeded yesterday in tearing up the track, burning a culvert, and throwing the locomotive off the track. Fortunately, no very great damage was done.
If Pine Bluff, Lewisburg, and Dardanelle should be abandoned, it would open to the enemy the richest part of the State for supplies, and give them a chance to burn an immense amount of cotton. If the post now occupied by our troops can be held until the Arkansas rises so as to be navigable, this property can be saved to us, and the shipment from the North of flour, forage, and beef to a considerable extent rendered unnecessary. It will then be impossible to advance across the country to Red River, on account of bad roads, wide bottoms, and impassable streams. If we were to advance now, it would require our whole force to meet the enemy, who would, probably, avoid an engagement, and when we should get far enough from our base, they would fall in behind us, and overrun the whole country, perhaps, into Missouri. They are, probably, prepared for this very contingency. Their infantry is all mounted; they have not foot soldiers. They will be pressed in the rear by Banks. Their supplies are becoming scarce, and they will have no other chance of escape. By the time we could reach Red River, the roads behind us would be impracticable for trains, and what assurance have we that Washita and Red Rivers will not be held by the enemy in Louisiana? It is reported here by people who know the facts that there being works at Shreveport and Harrisonburg.
Colonel Merrill has just returned from making a reconnaissance in force. He reports the forces under Holmes about 15,000, including conscripts