ruthless war against their masters, all in the name of humanity call for the interposition of those powers who really hold the destiny of our country in their hands.
The country west of the Mississippi has been exhausted of its fighting population to swell up the ranks of our armies in Virginia, Tennessee, and Mississippi. The aged, the infirm, and the lukewarm constitute the mass of the population that remains. The enemy have overrun Missouri, a large portion of Arkansas and Louisiana, and, besides the heavy columns preparing on the Arkansas and Louisiana frontier for the fall campaign, they have organized a force of over 100,000 negro troops, which will be made available in their scheme of conquest this winter.
The preparations of the enemy and the disposition of his forces clearly shadow forth the policy of overrunning and conquering the States west of the Mississippi. Holding and controlling that river, with their southern and western frontier open for extension toward Mexico and the Pacific, they will be prepared to make terms with the Confederate States bordering on the Atlantic.
The intervention of the French Government can alone save Mexico from having on its border a grasping, haughty,and imperious neighbor. If the policy of the Emperor looks to an intervention in our affairs, he should take immediate military possession of the east bank of the Rio Grande,and open to use the only channel (since the loss of the Mississippi) by which supplies and munitions of war can be introduced into the department. The whole cotton trade west of the Mississippi will thus be secured to the French market, and the enemy will be anticipated in making a lodgment on the Rio Grande, from which he could not be driven without great difficulty.
In addressing you this letter I am actuated by a consciousness of the great danger impending over this department. I have not written for diplomatic effect, but have stated truths which should have weight with you in your intercourse and negotiations with the French Government.
I have the honor to be,very respectfully, your obedient servant,
E. KIRBY SMITH,
HEADQUARTERS TRANS-MISSISSIPPI DEPARTMENT, Shreveport, La., September 5, 1863.
GENERAL: The necessity of increasing our effective force, and the policy of employing negro labor in the place of detailed soldiers, forces itself so strongly on my mind that I will call your attention to my letter.*
I know not what success you have met with, nor how far the people, in their patriotism, may have responded to your call. The urgency is immediate. If your expectations have not been realized, you must resort to impressment. The temper of the people is now favorable for such a step; there is a feeling of distrust in the loyalty of their slaves, and an anxiety to have the able-bodied males in the service of the Government; especially is this the case in the exposed portions of the country,and I think there large numbers could be obtained without difficulty. Estimates should be made of the wants of the several departments,
*Not found; but see Smith to Holmes, July 7, p.907.