HEADQUARTERS DISTRICT OF TEXAS, &C., Piedmont, August 4, 1863.
Brigadier General H. P. BEE,
Commanding Division, &c., Brownsville:
GENERAL: I have your letter of the 31st July before me. You state that you have concealed to certain persons at Brownsville the right to export their cotton, in consideration of the large indebtedness of the Government to them. This is not in accordance with General Smith's orders, not I think, with my own. The object of the impressment at this time is to fulfill our part of contracts entered into by the Secretary of War, in pursuance of which cargoes are now at the mouth of the Rio Grande or landed at Matamoras. The debts due by the Government, or by Major Hart, or its agents, are not to be provided for by this impressment. It is presumed that Major Hart will pay his debts during this season. I am informed by him that no precise date for such payments, except in the case of King & Kennedy, of 500 bales a month, is fixed in his contract. At all events, the cotton ordered to be impressed was directed to be applied to the fulfillment of our contracts with parties named and to secure cargoes named. I cannot, therefore, approve of your exempting cotton from impressment because of the indebtedness of the Government to the owners thereof. Undoubtedly it is a hard case, but in case of the Government it is a necessity of the highest kind, and is to so judged both by Lieutenant-General Smith and myself, and hence the cotton of the class of persons above alluded to was not exempted from impressment. You state that the remainder belongs to the State, to contractors,and planters, who have also the privilege of exporting. It is true that State troops is exempt by our orders, but I have written the Governor requesting that it be made subject to impressment in the present emergency. As to the contractors and planters, the cotton of the former is subject to the impressment under our orders unless they have the supplies ready on the Rio Grande for delivery, and I presume this is not the case with many,if any; and as to the latter, planters' cotton is exempt only so far as may be necessary to purchase a reasonable amount of supplies; all over that small amount brings the planter in the category of speculators,and should be impressed; this is clear.
As to the freights, we have nothing to do with them; we impress the cotton, and pay in notes or certified accounts for the full value, including everything on the Rio Grande. If the consignees refuse to pay the expenses necessary to enable us to move the cotton across the river (and in no case, I believe, except the one of Nelson Clements, reported by you, is that necessary), so much of the impressed cotton as may be necessary can be sold for coin to pay necessary expenses. Teamsters and all must wait in order that we may fulfill our contracts and send return cargoes bay each ship. Without a law of Congress we would have the "right of necessity;" with a law of Congress, passed especially with this view, we should be derelict in the last degree if we suffered our credit to be blasted abroad when the remedy is in our own hands. Your appear to be influenced by the debts due at Brownsville and Matamoras, but we have decided that the cargoes from abroad in ship named in the orders shall be taken care of by impressment,and that is final, however hard it may operate upon individuals. As to your suggestion of the remedy to buy or impress cotton in the interior,it is too late in the season; and the impressment of cotton in the interior would not obviate the difficulty as to foreigners, as they own as much cotton here as there.