to meet this necessity with an adequate supply of cotton, the absolute want of army supplies in the Trans-Mississippi Department, and the interruption of communication with the east, making the Rio Grande the only channel by which they are to be introduced, makes it a military necessity that cotton should be obtained by impressment in sufficient quantity to meet the wants of the department on the Rio Grande.
You will, therefore, impress, or cause to be impressed, through General Bee, commanding the Western Military Sub-District of Texas, the cotton and transportation necessary for meeting the immediate wants of the department, and for keeping up the credit of the Government. The impressment must be made under the provisions of the impressment act.
Contractors who have entered into an agreement with the Government in good faith, whose contracts have been approved at Richmond, at department headquarters, or district headquarters, and who have good soon the Rio Grande frontier, awaiting the arrival of their cotton, will not be interfered with.
Mr. L. S. Jones, general railroad agent, under authority from the Government, importing machinery, &c., necessary for keeping up the roads on the military lines of communication, will also be exempted from this impressment. He must show that the cotton purchased by himself or his agents is for the above purpose, and not for private speculation. Good policy would dictate that the impressments, until after the election for Governor, should be made in the vicinity of the Rio Grande and Nueces, and where the election will be least influenced.
In making the impressment, it may be necessary to make distinctions. Persons importing machinery, or who are transporting cotton for the public good, should be exempted, if the cotton can be otherwise obtained. In every instance, no effort should be spared to obtain the cotton from parties in exchange for cotton in the interior or for cotton certificates. A just compensation can be agreed upon for the damage inflicted upon the parties, and the Government pledged to the repayment in cotton whenever the agreement is accepted. Impressment is always the last resort ont he part of the authorities.
In your letter of the 22nd instant, whilst you urge the department commander to order the impressment, you decline yourself to take the responsibility, knowing the odium that must attach itself to such a measure.
The fall of Vicksburg, now so imminent, with the necessity for these supplies to the very existence of the department, will give the measure the support of the thinking portion of the community. Lest it should be otherwise, feeling as I do, with the peculiar temperament of the Texas people, the importance of your maintaining your popularity, I am perfectly willing that the odium of the measure, if any, should fall upon myself, and that your usefulness in the district should remain unimpaired. You can, therefore, yourself, or though General Bee, make all the above impressments in my name and under my orders.
As regards the ship of war whose arrival is reported off the Rio Grande by Colonel Gray, the credit of the Government should be maintained by the purchase, first, of the supplies which have been contracted for by the Government, and which have arrived, and, afterward, if the cotton can be obtained, the vessel can be purchased. This, however, must be done by yourself, or General Bee, through you, as only thus the fitness of the vessel and the expediency of the purchase can be determined on.