institute special enterprises the shipping and trade of the enemy on the Mississippi.
I have explained to you, in other letters, that, being unwilling at this distance and with my limited knowledge to conclude definitely on these propositions, I prefer that they should be considered and decided on by you, and invest you with the requisite authority to do so. I inclose the proposition made by Colonel McCray,* which has the merit of boldness in conception, and, with fortune and skill, not impossible of partial if not of complete success.
I do not,however, wish you to be influenced by any judgment of mine in regard to it. Colonel McCray is personally known to you through past services, and feels full confidence that his qualifications (such as they are) will be appreciated and properly employed by you. You will note the great stress I lay in this and other letters on the interruption of communication and trade on the Mississippi River by the enemy. I see, from publications in their papers, that they recognize both the importance of maintaining such communication and its liability to interruption, and they seek to deter from hostile obstructions, by most truculent threats of the cruel severities which, in case of any attack they will visit, not merely on the hostile assailants, but on all the people of the adjacent districts, their habitations, and property. Should such atrocities be practiced to repress lawful hostilities on our part, you will not hesitate to take the most summary measures to retaliate and deter. Should any of the parties practicing such cruelties be taken, the Government should not be troubled with them, but on the very scenes where the innocent inhabitants may have suffered, or their homes been devastated, the perpetrators, or those taken from a similar line of service, should be executed, and left a solemn warning to the barbarous foe.
It is very probable that the forces employed by the enemy in guarding the river will consist, in large measure, of negro troops. I think I have already, in previous communications, intimated to you, as my own judgment, that a most marked distinction should be made in the treatment, when taken, of these negro troops and of the white men leading them. The latter had better be dealt with red-handed on the field or immediately thereafter. The former, to be considered rather as deluded victims of the hypocrisy and malignity of the enemy, should not be driven to desperation, but received readily to mercy,and encouraged to submit and return to their masters, with whom, after their brief experience of Yankee humanity and the perils of the military service, they will be more content than ever heretofore in the service and under the protection of their legitimate guardians. I do not design these as positive instructions, but suggestions which I hope will receive the concurrence of your judgment and become your rule of action.
Your obedient servant,
J. A. SEDDON,
Secretary of War.
HEADQUARTERS NORTHERN SUB-DISTRICT OF TEXAS, Camp near Bonham, Tex., August 13, 1863.
Captain EDMUND P. TURNER,
CAPTAIN: I have the honor to inclose you a copy of a dispatch from me to General Boggs, forwarding him dispatches from General Steele.
General Steel writes me that he has retired with General Cabell's