HEADQUARTERS TRANS-MISSISSIPPI DEPARTMENT,
Shreveport, La., June 16, 1863.
His Excellency the PRESIDENT:
I have just received your letter of May 8*, and acknowledge its receipt through Colonel [J. C.] Ives, who is passing through this place, en route for Richmond. I will write more in detail by special messenger, who leaves in a few days with dispatches for the department.
My letter of the 9th,+ to General Cooper, gives the disposition of the troops in the department at that time. Any changes since made can be explained by Colonel Ives, who is also furnished with a return made from the information in the office at the time of his arrival. As mails have miscarried and communication lost, I will refer to matters connected with my early arrival in the department. Crossing the Mississippi early in March, I proceeded, as requested by telegram from the Secretary of War, to Little Rock, where I remained nearly three weeks, before returning to Alexandria. I found there a rapidly improving condition of affairs, and an increasing confidence manifested in General Holmes' administration. Men were returning to their colors, and regiments, reduced to mere skeletons by events consequent to the retreat from Prairie Grove, were rapidly filling up to respectably sized organizations. The removal of General Hindman, and the transfer of General Price to this department, no doubt in part contributed to these results; but I believe, in a great measure, that the wise and energetic measures taken by General Holmes in bringing back absentees, providing for the comfort of his men, and in dispersing the bands of disaffected throughout the District of Arkansas brought about this important change. The strength of the command in Arkansas had been greatly exaggerated. I found two divisions of infantry, each numbering less than 5,000 effective men for duty. This, with Steele's command, which was only a nominal one, the Indians being at their homes, and Marmaduke's cavalry, constituted the force at the disposal of General Holmes in the District of Arkansas, Missouri, and the Indian country. There was a great deficiency of arms and equipments; the losses at Prairie Grove and in the retreat in both these respects were great. Subsequent examination has shown, what I was convinced of at Little Rock, that the defect of General Holmes administration was that he has [had] been exercising solely the functions of a district commander, has [had] remained at Little Rock, and charged himself alone with the interests of the District of Arkansas and the Indian country. There was no general system, no common head; each district was acting independently. The vast extent of country to be administered to, and the absorbing interest of Missouri affairs, with the prospective hope of advancing into that State, no doubt controlled General Holmes in his policy; but I found really that there was no department commander; that I must begin de novo in any attempt at a general systematizing and development of the department resources. I determined upon Shreveport as geographically the position for department headquarters. It is at the head of water navigation on Red River, and is on the direct line of travel from Texas to Richmond. A line of telegraph, which I have just had completed, puts it in communication with Little Rock and Monroe, and will put it in communication with Richmond whenever Vicksburg is open to us. I have taken the initiatory steps for connecting this line with the Texas line of telegraph, and with Alexandria, making Shreveport the center of communication, as well as the geographical center of the department.
* See p. 834.
+ Relating to operations in Louisiana, and to appear in Vol. XXVI.