Dickinson. Your presence at Houston for a few weeks I consider in dispensable to the public service. I beg, therefore, that you will come down, if possible, as soon as you receive this. you can communicate more rapidly, I think, with General Taylor from Houston than from Shreveport.
J. BANKHEAD MAGRUDER,
November 18, 1863.
His Excellency JEFFERSON DAVIS,
DEAR SIR: We arrived here on yesterday, having been delayed some time on the other side of the Mississippi River by the representations made by scouts upon duty on the river, and after a full examination of the difficulties and facilities for crossing, have no hesitation in saying that arms and ordnance stores, mails and money, in any reasonable quantity, can be crossed into this department without difficulty.
The gunboats stationed at intervals of 10 or 15 miles are small stern-wheel, light-draught boats, entirely vulnerable to light artillery.
When I passed over, there were not on both banks of the river, nor within 20 miles of either side, from Natchez to Vicksburg, 25 Confederate soldiers on duty.
At the present stage of the water, iron-clad gunboats cannot navigate the river, and they have no men to spare for extensive raids. An efficient regiment of mounted infantry and ten or twelve pieces of light artillery on each side would not only close the navigation of the river, but would render the passage as safe as before the fall of Vicksburg.
The opinion prevalent among the planters is that no capture had been made, excepting when the greatest imprudence was manifested, the officers and agents in charge speaking too freely of their business, which was transmitted to the enemy by negroes or some disloyal citizens. Of the latter class there are by few, and the conduct of the citizens generally is bold, defiant, and fearless.
All communication with the gunboats should be stopped under the severest penalties, for the negroes are generally spies.
Public opinion is not as buoyant on this side as the other. I hope shortly its elasticity will be recovered, as a favorable change is now taking place.
General Smith will have the river on this side thoroughly protected in a few days, and, when intercourses is re-established, it will have the happiest effect.
Believe me to be, yours, most respectfully and sincerely,
T. N. WAYL.
HEADQUARTERS TRANS-MISSISSIPPI DEPARTMENT,
Shreveport, La., November 18, 1863.
Major General RICHARD TAYLOR,
Commanding District of Western Louisiana:
GENERAL: Your communication of November 15, in relation (among other things) to Colonel Harrison's brigade, has been received. In reply, the lieutenant-general commanding directs me to inform you that the organization of this brigade became a necessity to carry out