make a successful assault upon some of the isolated positions. We shall endeavor to prevent this by all possible means. I repeat, that in any movements in which I engage, I shall concentrate the available forces of my command, and peril nothing by an unnecessary division.
I am very much gratified that the Third Maryland Cavalry is ordered to this department. It promises to become a fine regiment. From the nature of the country in which we operate, a strong cavalry force is indispensable, and I am endeavoring to convert infantry regiments into cavalry as rapidly as possible consistent with the service. The true line of occupation, in my judgment, offensive and defensive, for this department, is the Atchafalaya and the Mississippi. The Teche country, and that between the Atchafalaya and the Mississippi, can be defended only by the assistance of the navy. It is impossible for land forces to operate on that line successfully without the assistance of gunboats. With their assistance the advance is easy and certain. The best position that we could occupy will be to defend this line by the aid of a strong naval force of light and heavy draught gunboats for the different waters in which they may operate, and the disposable land forces so held as to be able to move from one point to another in a body. We should then have one complete line of water navigation from the Rio Grande to Alexandria or Shreveport during the winter and spring and from the mouth of the Mississippi to Key West in the Gulf, and could throw our entire force against any point of the territory occupied by the enemy without the possibility of their anticipating our movement or purposes. I am endeavoring constantly to secure means for offensive and defensive war upon this place, and am confident that it can be very speedily accomplished.
I have the honor to be, with much respect, your obedient servant,
N. P. BANKS,
HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF THE GULF,
New Orleans, December 30, 1863.
Major General H. W. HALLECK,
General-in-Chief, U. S. Army, Washington, D. C.:
GENERAL: The signal corps has been of very essential service in this department in all our operations by land and water. In our recent movements upon the coast of Texas, it was the only means of communication between the inland bays and the coast, and, without the assistance of the signal officers, it seems as if we would sometimes have been deprived of the power of communication. The importance of its service in this case can hardly be overestimated.
The same is true of its services on land. I can state with entire confidence that a discontinuance of this means of communication would cause universal regret among all the officers of the Government, both naval and military. The gentlemen connected with the signal corps in this department are men of excellent character, great energy and courage, almost always in the front of the army, and in positions of danger, and undergo any amount of fatigue and trial without complaint, discharging all their duties to our entire satisfaction. I do not know that I have ever received a complaint of neglect of any duty by any signal officer. This communication is written upon the suggestion of the signal officer of the army, through the chief officer of the corps in this department, as an expression of opinion as to the value of the corps and the conduct of its officers in this department.