MOBILE, May 5, 1863.
General JOSEPH E. JOHNSTON,
GENERAL: Previous to the arrival of your dispatch authorizing the purchase of 1,000 hogsheads of sugar, the War Department had directed General Bucker to seize and detain for impressment all the stock of sugar and molasses in this district. Having little faith in the impressing officers fixing the price of sugar under the present market rates, I would still have been disposed to operate under your order, but the parties making the proposition availed themselves of the delay to raise their figures with the advancing market, and declined to execute their agreement.
General Buckner having ordered his commissary to purchase 300 hogsheads at 65 cents, securing a concession of 10 cents in the pound by releasing an equal amount, I had 50 hogsheads of this turned over to Major Guy, at Demopolis, with the promise that another 50 hogsheads would be sent him this week. Seeing that nothing could be accomplished here, I turned my attention to General Pemberton's department, and concluded with a joint stock company what I think is an excellent operation for the Government. The parties have 1,000 hogsheads of Numbers 1 clarified sugar (warranted as such) at Summit Depot, on the New Orleans and Jackson Railroad. They engaged to sell one-half of this amount (500 hogsheads) for 60 cents per pound, on condition they are accorded liberty of transportation for the other half, they paying their own freight. They guarantee that the sugar sold the Government is the very best article, such as would command 90 cents to $1 per pound in this market. Mr. Charles Walsh, president of the Bank of Mobile, is at the head of the company. I did not feel that I could reject so advantageous a proposition for the Government, and accordingly took the responsibility of closing the transaction and issuing the necessary orders for the transportation to Lieutenant-General Pemberton.
It appears that at the last moment Colonel Northrop has become alive to the importance and necessity of bartering sugar and molasses for meat. Three months ago he could have secured 10,000 hogsheads at an average of 35 cents a pound. When too late, he is met by the stubborn results of his folly. He orders the sugar in this district to be impressed for this purpose, which I predict will cost the Government not one cent lees that 75 cents per pound. Presuming that the impressment had already taken place, he yesterday ordered the commissary here to send forward immediately 4,000 hogsheads to Richmond, Raleigh, and Augusta. But as the impressment commissioners had not acted in the matter, the order was not executed. I think it would be well for you to determine how much of the sugar and molasses in your department you can, in justice to your troops, permit to go east for this object. So long as there is sugar and molasses, the army will be in no want of meat. Any quantity can be had in exchange, both in Georgia and Alabama.
Two experienced and reliable cattle-men, Messrs Yocum and Kerr, have called to see me, and propose to deliver 5,000 head of cattle at Demopolis to Major Guy in the next sixty days. These cattle are within a week's drive of the Mississippi River, and will be put across so soon as a tolerable chance present itself. They offer to deliver them at Demopolis, taking all the risk, at 18 cents net. They are to be in fine condition, and subject to inspection. Without concluding any definite arrangement, I told them I had no doubt you would order these