MOBILE, April 23, 1863
GENERAL: On my arrival here, I found that the operations of the enemy in the Mississippi river obstructed for he present any movement of sugar from Western Louisiana. The matter will keep, however, and I have concluded an engagement with parties to begin the delivery so soon as the position of the enemy's boats make it tolerably safe and practicable. Meanwhile I find that there is a vast amount of sugar in private hands located between here and Vicksburg, which can be had by Government at reduced prices, for the concession of the right of speedy transportation. For instance, sugar is worth at Vicksburg 65 cents; the same parties will sell to Government at 40, for the liberty of moving forward an equal amount on their own account. Exchanging for meat, pound for pound, would secure for the Government not only the meat, which is the great consideration, but at prices less than half the market value. I have been communicating by telegraph with Colonel Ewell on the matter but up to this time have received no definite instructions. In the mean time I have directed Major Guy, who is still scouring Central and Northern Alabama for cattle, to be ready to establish a depot some-where on the line of the Mobile and Ohio Railroad that General Pemberton may deem safe, for the exchange of sugar for bacon, being informed that large quantities may be accumulated in that way.
General Buckner has been informed that there is a large quantity of surplus cattle in General Cobb's district, variously estimated at between 10,000 and 20,000 head. This information comes to him from a most reliable source. At my suggestion he has asked permission to let hi commissary gather up these beeves for the general use of the army, particularly at present for the command of General Bragg. The permission will doubtless be granted, and his commissary has a corps of agents organized to go to work.
I am informed that the Government agent in Mississippi has made large contracts for and purchases of cattle in Texas, some of which are now in motion for the east. But, frankly, I have little confidence in any arrangements of the Commissary-General, and would earnestly recommend the immediate establishment of a severe depot of supplies to be located somewhere in the vicinity of Meridian, the officer in charge to be specially instructed to make immediate arrangements for the purchase of cattle in Texas, so that they can be driven forward on the spring grass. These supplied and animals, when collected, can be used anywhere the exigencies of your department may indicate. The accounts are concurrent and universal that General Pemberton, is most lax and improvident in his collection of supplies, and should not object to being assisted when the result is for hiss own benefit, in common with other portions of your command, you being responsible for the whole. I inclose a dispatch from Major T. B. Reed, at present staff commissary of General M. L. Smith, expressing his willingness and that of his commanding officer to undertake the management of a depot of this character. He has had much experience, and is highly commended as an efficient and valuable officer. He is confident of being able to accumulate large quantities of provisions and securing a great number of beeves. I would suggest that he be assigned to this duty at once, and ordered to report from time to time directly to your headquarters.
General Buckner is concluding, or rather has just concluded, large contracts for provisions to run the blockade. The parties are confident