War of the Rebellion: Serial 033 Page 0988 MO., ARK., KANS., IND.T., AND DEPT. N.W. Chapter XXXIV.

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company temporarily detached,to take post at Washita, for the purpose of fitting up such temporary caissons as he may be able to improvise by the time the guns are in readiness. I wish him to have every latitude to go wherever it may be necessary for material, leaving much to his discretion, in which I have great confidence.

Respectfully, your obedient servant,

WM. STEELE,

Brigadier-General.

MORTON, September 2, 1863.

Hon. JAMES A. SEDDON,

Secretary of War:

SIR: I have just had the honor to receive your letter of the 19th ultimo. Major-General Taylor and myself attempted to establish a regular communication between this and the Trans-Mississippi Department by lines of couriers meeting at Rodney; but before the arrangement had been completed the enemy's gunboats took possession of the ferry, which they still hold. It will be impossible for us to use any ferry long, as the enemy soon obtains information which enables him by his vessels of war to find and destroy our ferry-boats. I will endeavor, however, to arrange with Lieutenant-General Smith lines of couriers, meeting at some ferry of the Mississippi; another point to be agreed upon for the next crossing place when the Federal gunboats may have taken possession of the first. In the mean time we can easily transmit by special messengers letters or other light packages which you may desire to send beyond the river.

As to interrupting the navigation of the Mississippi by transports and merchant vessels, there is but one difficulty,that of taking the requisite force of cavalry from the service upon which it is now engaged, the defense of an extensive frontier and lines of railroad. I think that another brigade of cavalry would enable us to make that navigation too dangerous to be attempted by merchant vessels. We will, however, harass it as much as practicable. The part of the river upon which we can operate best for that object is between Grand Gulf and Natchez.

Most respectfully, your obedient servant,

J. E. JOHNSTON,

General.

HEADQUARTERS TRANS-MISSISSIPPI DEPARTMENT, Shreveport, La., September 3, 1863.

Major General RICHARD TAYLOR:

GENERAL: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 1st instant.* Since my return from Marshall I have been confined to my room with an inflamed eye,and have been prohibited giving that personal attention to business that I desired.

It has not been my intention to order Walker's division from your command. I desired it held in readiness,that little delay should occur when the enemy's dispositions necessitated its movement. Major's brigade was ordered toward the Indian country,owing to the critical condition of our affairs in that section. Steele,at last advices, was falling back toward Red River,and General Magruder, till the State troops are armed and organized, can forward few or no re-enforcements to his support.

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*Not found.

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