commanding in the Indian country, has sent his troops back to Red River for something to eat, and the enemy have retired into Missouri, leaving but a single regiment in Northwestern Arkansas, both flying in opposite directions to look for food. What is to become of the people I do not see. I am making every exertion to feed the Indians from Texas, and hope to succeed, though it will be at an enormous expense, for the roads are so nearly impassable that it takes half that a team can haul to feed it on the road. The corn on this river will not last ninety days, and, if the roads do not improve, I must move somewhere, for I cannot draw my supplies from Texas. The question is, where to go. If Vicksburg is not reduced, there is no danger of an invasion of Arkansas from the east, and, if they come from the north, they can only remain until they consume the supplies they bring with them.
It is reported that General Price is anxious to come over here. He is very much beloved, and I would like very much to have him with me if I go to Missouri, which, however, is only possible on the supposition that the roads improve to such an extent that I can bring my flour from the depot at Paraclifta. His popularity would probably secure for us more supplies in Missouri than could be otherwise had.
The retreat from Northwestern Arkansas was a most disastrous affair. Out of 12,000, not more than 6,000 effectives arrived here. The remainder, in about equal parts, deserted, or were left sick or disabled. I issued an order of pardon to the deserters coming in voluntarily, and have raised several companies of Partisan Rangers in the localities from whence they came, and many of the deserters are coming or being brought in. The morale of the division is entirely restored, and, if I could replace the arms that were lost, it would be in excellent condition for service, I am much gratified at our success in putting down disaffection, and I hope no further resort to force will be necessary. There would never have been any trouble on this account if it had not been that all the arms were taken from or given by the loyal people to the army.
I thank you, my dear sir, for sending General Smith to Louisiana and Texas. I was unable to do anything there.
My sick report, thank God, is decreasing, though it is still very large, and great numbers have died. All the medical officers agree that it was owing to the diet and exposure, poor beef and corn-bread being the only diet, and very many of them passed the winter without tents and scarcely with clothing to cover their nakedness.
I am, my dear sir, most gratefully and faithfully,
TH. H. HOLMES.
HDQRS. DEPARTMENT OF THE INDIAN TERRITORY,
Fort Smith, Ark., March 6, 1863.
Surg. W. B. WELCH, In Charge Cane Hill Hospital:
SIR: Your communication of date of 5th instant* was received to-day. The order received by you from the officer in command of the United States forces is astonishing in its character; it is contrary to every principle and usage of civilized warfare, and in contravention of the agreement entered into between the generals lately commanding the respective forces of the Governments of the United States and Confederate States in Western Arkansas. An order has been issued some time since by the medical director of the Trans-Mississippi Department
*Not found; but see Steele to Anderson, March 8, p. 798.