You will recollect that two of the regiments in Major's command (Stone's and Phillips') were on the march to re-enforce Steele when they were ordered to your support,and instructions were given directing their return to General Steele whenever the exigency taking them to Louisiana had passed.
The disposition of your command looking to an ultimate concentration on Red River is good. You know I have always regarded the holding of the valley of that river as of vital importance in any plan adopted for the defense of the department; it is the enemy's true line of operations. In my interview with you in July last,in Alexandria, I explained the importance attached by me to the line of the Sabine and Red Rivers; that steps would be taken for increasing its strength by fortifications at important points, and that it was the line of which, when driven back by overwhelming numbers, we must concentrate and meet the enemy.
The difficulties of my position are well know to you- a vast extent of country to defend;a force utterly inadequate for the purpose; a luke warm people, the touchstone to whose patriotism seems beyond my grasp, and who appear more intent upon the means of evading the enemy and saving their property then of defending their firesides. The policy which must influence me in ordering the movement of troops or in adopting any general plan of operations adds in tenfold degree to these difficulties; it is not only as a military man,but as a statesman that they have to be considered. The President impresses it upon me, the representative and the leading men of the States urge it upon me, that the States must be defended; that, once in the hands of the enemy, they will be irretrievably lost to the Confederacy. But for these considerations, I would long since have followed the military principle of abandoning a part to save the whole, and, concentrating in advance, been ready to strike decisively and boldly when the campaign would have been materially influenced.
I was convinced, from my own observation, that the withdrawal of the troops and the abandonment of the Arkansas Valley would be followed by the defection of the Arkansas regiments. The Missourians might be relied upon,but the Indian allies are in the same category.
By bringing up the State troops under the Governor's call, I shall endeavor to keep back the enemy on that line, trusting that, when we are driven back by overwhelming forces, the men will remain true to their colors. Time with us is now the most essential element of success,and our policy is clearly not to engage the enemy without some chance of success, but to draw him back from his base, weakening his column, and enabling us to strike a decisive blow. Our concentration will be somewhere in the valley of Red River, which is our ultimate line of defense, on which a stand must be made. You must control your own operations in your district, bearing in mind what I have said about the disposition of your troops,so as to concentrate on Red River, and remembering I can give you now but little or no assistance in the way of re-enforcements. Your works at Grand Ecore and below should be pushed to completion. A small inclosed work, capable of containing a garrison of not over 300 or 400 men, with obstructions under the guns of the fort, has been with me the only practicable and feasible defense for our small rivers. Strong enough to resist an assault, with three months' supply of provisions, it will compel a resort to regular approaches, and arrest the enemy sufficiently long,probably, to change the character of the campaign. My last information from Little Rock reports a suspension of the enemy's operations in that vicinity. They were checked