Galveston from the Sabine by Beaumont, Liberty, and Houston. If the enemy is in such strength as to defeat this, by occupying a position between the Sabine and Neches, we shall make available the fortifications of the enemy at Orange, and be supported by the navy, whose light boats can run up to Orange or to Beaumont.
If the season were different, the northern line would be doubtless preferable on many grounds.
With much respect, I am, general, your obedient servant,
N. P. BANKS,
HDQRS. DEPT. OF THE GULF, NINETEENTH ARMY CORPS,
New Orleans, August 26 1863.
Commander-in-Chief, U. S. Army, Washington, D. C.:
GENERAL: Your dispatch of the 12th instant, referring to the necessity of operations in Texas rather than against Mobile, was received by the Morning Star, arriving yesterday. Independent of any political or diplomatic considerations, Texas presents an arena as important as any portion of the country. The occupation of Galveston, if it could be accomplished by a dispersion of capture of any considerable portion of Texas troops, and the destruction of the rebel steamers in the central rivers emptying in the Gulf, would cripple beyond recovery the rebel forces of the Southwest. The rebellion in Louisiana is kept alive only by Texas.
A considerable land force is requisite to accomplish this result, even with the co-operation of the navy,and protect at the same time New Orleans. The enemy has been very active in gathering up conscripts. There are about 15,000 between Natchitoches and Franklin. Kirby Smith has moved the forces at Shreveport westward to the terminus of the railway from Shreveport to Marshall, where a convocation of the Trans-Mississippi Governors and commanders was held on the 15th instant. The Governor of Texas has ordered the conscription of all men between sixteen and sixty years of age. General Magruger is at Galveston, with from 5,000 to 7,000. This will constitute a pretty formidable army of concentrated against us in Texas, or if thrown against New Orleans.
My disposable force is not over 20,000, but the deficiencies of transportation make it impossible to move at once more than one-third of this force by water. I have twenty negro regiments, numbering 500 each, or about 10,000 in all, but they are just organized, armed, and uniformed, and are available only for labor at the present moment. If New Orleans is attacked or threatened, the defense is in a very great degree dependent upon the navy. In the above absence of the army, they must make it impossible for them to cross the Mississippi, and obstruct the passage of berwick Bay or the Atchafalaya by any considerable military force. It is necessary the naval force should be strengthened for this purpose and to protect the river. The light-draught gunboats of the upper fleet would be of the greatest service, and I hope they may be ordered down, for temporary service, at least.
I renew most earnestly my request for the dispatch of sea steamers from New York for temporary service in this department. If our enterprise is successful, as I am confident it will be, it ought to be followed up closely, and with power. It will give us greatly military as well as diplomatic advantages.