Steele must not be allowed to effect a junction with Banks below Natchitoches. Should he move toward Calhoun and Homer, our depots must be consumed by your command and destroyed before him as you retire. All supplies on his line of advance must be destroyed or removed, and with your superiority in cavalry, confine his foraging parties to the main column. Destruction must await him if he advances. You will push his retreat and make it disastrous.
E. KIRBY SMITH,
HDQRS. COMMISSARY DEPARTMENT, PRICE'S DIVISION,
Des Arc, July 21, 1863.
Major L. A. MACLEAN,
MAJOR: In your note of yesterday you say:
General Price would be obliged to you (me) for a statement, in writing, of any facts that may be within your knowledge relating to the employment by him of hemp bales in the siege and taking of Lexington, Mo., in September, Mo., in September, 1861, and particularly as to the claim put forward by some of General Harris' friends that this use of the hemp was suggested by that officer.
It is with pleasure I avail myself of the first moment had for reflection to furnish, through you, to the general, the following facts. Will you please present them?
Major General STERLING PRICE:
GENERAL: When, in September, 1861, the Missouri State Guard was advancing under your orders toward Lexington, as a member of your staff and commissary-general of the State, I accompanied the army.
At a small village called Index, a part of the militia which had been threatening Lexington, under the command of Colonel Ront (the colonel having left them and returned to his home), met, and were incorporated in your army. Captain Thomas Hinkle, at present assistant quartermaster in the Provisional Army, Confederate States, was among them, and some time during the day, either at Index or at Rose Hill, told me, to use his own language, "How easy Ront could have taken Lexington before the re-enforcements under Mulligan and Marshall arrived, without the loss of 10 men." He then spoke of the baled hemp. I was not struck with the practicability of his assertions, thinking the enemy could, by the use of hot shot or incendiary shell, destroy such combustible material whenever it came within range of his guns. Captain Hinkle said that could be guarded against by first dipping the bales in the river. I did not understand how any considerable breastwork was to be got into position. "By the simplest process imaginable," replied the captain. "Take the large wheels on your place, 7 or 8 feet in diameter (and I can get a half dozen pair like them in the country), and put in an axle 30 or 40 feet long, if you choose. Have it strong enough to carry a frame that will bear bales of hemp, from within a few inches of the surface of the earth, 8 or 10 feet high."
I declined to present, according to my present recollections, the plan of Hinkle to you. Colonel Snead, who came up before the conversation concluded, I assured him was the proper channel of communication with you. This interview was on the third or fourth day preceding your first entry into Lexington.
The next time I heard hemp bales referred to was the evening of the first or second day after your entry into the city, ere taking up position