upon cotton of this department, but of the entire Confederacy. For this reason, I have always differed from Major Minter as to the propriety of disbursing officers making contracts based upon cotton, and for this reason I strongly recommend that the 2,000 bales of cotton ordered to be purchased to carry out the contract of Mr. Thatcher be turned over at once to Major Hart, and, if such cotton has not been purchase, that the order for its purchase be countermanded, and that Mr. Thatcher be authorized to proceed to Europe to execute his contract there for supplies, to be paid for in cotton on their delivery here, and such papers be given him by Lieutenant-General Smith as will afford him the necessary credit with which to buy these articles; in short, to use all the means and cotton of the Government to pay for articles here before they are sued to pay for articles in Europe. If the latter be done, it will result in our not obtaining the supplies now here, and in an entire loss of national credit both here and abroad.
I beg that Lieutenant-General Smith will give Brigadier-General Bee himself, or through me, written authority to take the cotton of Government contractors to pay for these supplies, particularly arms, in accordance with the suggestions of his letter. It will not do to impress the cotton of planters, and others who buy, and take it with their own means to the Rio Grande, if it can be avoided.
The political state of the country will, in my own judgment, hardly justify it, but the Government cotton-that is, the cotton of government contractors, carried by Government teams, and for Government purposes-should be taken in this emergency, and the cotton afterward supplied them at other points for the fulfillment of their contracts thus postponed. Whether the contractor can be supplied at once with cotton or not, the cotton should be taken.
There is doubt entertained by both General Bee and myself whether cotton is to be impressed by the act of impressment. This question clearly should be settled by the officer of the highest military rank in the department-Lieutenant-General Smith. I have, therefore, declined impressing cotton, or giving authority to impress cotton, and shall continue to do so until I receive the orders of Lieutenant-General Smith to impress it.
I will frankly state, however, that were I the commanding general of the Trans-Mississippi Department, I would, under the present circumstances, impress the cotton of Government contractors in sufficient quantities to secure the supplies already here and those en route, giving them cotton in the interior of the same quality, bale for bale, and hereafter the means of transporting the same, and, if necessary, paying fair damages for loss of time and increased expenses, and at the same time releasing them from the penalties of their contracts.
I beg that the lieutenant-general commanding will decide this question at the very earliest convenient moment, and send the result to me by swift express.
I am, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
J. BANKHEAD MAGRUDER,
Major-General, Commanding District.
P. S.-I have been informed by intelligent and reliable officers that nothing but rope and bagging has been brought into this State in return for the immense quantity of cotton that has crossed the Rio Grande frontier, and I am of the opinion that it is the intention of many of these contractors to obtain cotton merely to turn gold, and then leave the country.