at the present time. It is necessary to posses ourselves of other portions of country within the control of the enemy to increase this strength.
When I first assumed command in this department, I found three regiments in existence. They were demoralized from various causes, and engaged in controversy with white troops to such an extent that the white officers of these regiments, as well as the colored men who were in commission, believed that it was impracticable for them to continue in service. This difficulty was caused in a great degree by the character of the officers in command. They were unsuited for this duty, and have been most of the time, and some are still, in arrest upon charges of a discreditable character.
The reorganization of these three regiments by the appointment of white officers, and the organization of two other regiments of infantry and a regiment of engineers, were among the first acts of my administration in this department. They embraced all the material then within the control of the Government for regiments of this class. On the opening of the Teche country, in April, a large acquisition of recruits was obtained. The whole of these were appropriated to the organization of General Ullmann's brigade. The siege of Port Hudson has largely increased our material, and enabled us to complete the force that I have described. The regiments recently organized are limited to the number of 500 for the following reasons;
First. The speedy instructions and discipline of these troops makes it necessary that the officers should have the most complete control over them, and this is obtained by the smaller number much more certainly and efficiently than it would with the maximum number of men allowed.
Second. The skeleton organization of 500 well disciplines men enable us to add to the number whenever recruits may offer, and we have these regiments constantly in hand to receive any that may present themselves within or from beyond our lines. It was the practice in the organization of the conscripts of France, when the were required for immediate service, to limit the battalions to 300 or 400 men, instead of 1,000, which was the maximum number. There is certainly reason for such limitation, and I am sure that it will be found to be the only successful method of organization under the present circumstances. Should our armies get possession of Mobile or of Texas, these regiments can be filled without delay, and we shall have a force in the department of at least 25,000 good men. It is impossible to raise negro regiments except we get possession of the country where negroes are. This is a fact overlooked by many persons who are greatly interested in the success of these organizations. The regiments raised thus have been of great service in this department. I think it may be said with truth that our victory at Port Hudson could not have been accomplished at the time it was but for their assistance.
The number recruited could not have been increased materially up to this time. The movement now contemplated will enable me to carry out my original plan. The command of white troops is for the reason I have stated preliminary to the organization of black troops.
I hope my command may be enlarged by filling up the regiments now in this department with conscriptors volunteers. My cavalry is deficient, and should be at once increased.
Fifty or 100 officers for the Corps d'Afrique would be of the greatest service, if they could be sent at once.
I have the honor to be, with much respect, your most obedient servant,
N. P. BANKS,
44 R - VOL XXVI, PT I