[HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF EAST TENNESSEE,]
Knoxville, May 12, 1863.
Honorable JAMES A. SEDDON, Secretary of War, Richmond, Va.:
SIR: I arrived here yesterday from Mobile. To-day I assume command of the Department of East Tennessee. I inclose copies of contracts with various parties for furnishing army supplies at Mobile. They were the best contracts I could make for the Government, differing in their details, but all having in view the furnishing of abundant supplies at a comparatively small cost to the Government. I trust they will meet with your sanction. I will advise General Maury fully to-day of everything connected with them, and with other important interests relating to that department.
Before leaving Mobile, I issued a call upon the citizens to organize for local defense. My appeal was reponed to in a proper spirit, and with a promise of fair success. I took occasion, in my parting order, to commend my successor to the confidence of the soldiers and citizens of the Department of the Gulf. They will be prepared to receive that distinguished officer with all the confidence which I have reason to think they had extended to me.
Having left the Department of the Gulf, I feel at liberty to make some suggestions in reference to it, which I did not feel authorized in doing while yet in command.
In respect to its commanders, it occupies an anomalous position. It is subject to the orders of its own immediate commander, of General Bragg, and of General Johnston, as well as of the War Department.
When, soon after assuming command, the former "District" of the Gulf was denominated a "Department," subject still to the orders of General Bragg, that officer very kindly suggested that he would join me in an application to have it converted into a separate department. As I did not desire such a separation on my own account, I declined making an application for such a separation, preferring to leave the question entirely to the judgment of my seniors.
There are potent reasons for separating that department from the command of the officer who may command the Department of Tennessee. First. The commander of the Tennessee Department will necessarily be sufficiently occupied with the details of his own department and the command of the army in the field.
Second. No intimate military relations exist between the two departments.
Third. The authority to combine movements between the two departments already resides in General Johnston, the common superior.
Fourth. More intimate military relations exist between the Department of the Gulf and the Department of Mississippi.
The defense of Mobile is essential to the defense of Vicksburg, and the fall of Vicksburg has a direct bering upon Mobile. This is demonstrated by recent events. General Bragg ordered from Mobile a force larger than was contemplated by General Johnston. A literal compliance with his orders would have stripped Mobile of all defense, even of artillerists. By orders from General Johnston, I was directed to look to General Pemberton to replace, in case of necessity, the force sent to Tennessee, while, in the defense of Northern Mississippi, General Pemberton must necessarily call upon the Gulf Department for assistance, which has been given him to the full extent of the means of the department.
These suggestions are not made in a spirit of criticism or complaint,
53 R R - VOL XXIII, PT II