enemy approaching from the west is covered by the sand hills stretching along the coast until within about 800 yards of our batteries, at which distance Minie rifles are effective. Besides, he will have but little difficulty in hauling 30 pounder Parrott guns along the beach, even if the weather will not permit a landing. The other day while the norther was blowing the sea was as calm as a mirror.
In consideration of the above facts, I would suggest that should the enemy advance from the west, which I think he will, that we move with our whole force and defend the line of the San Bernard, which appears to be very strong. There is but one point, I am informed, below Columbia at which it is fordable, and that is at its junction with the Gulf, where it is 3 to 4 feet deep, and troops have along distance to wade. The sand hills on both sides are about the same height, and, arranged in tumuli, afford good protection to our men and batteries as well from the fire from the ships as the shore batteries of the enemy. Should it become necessary to retreat, there is an excellent road to Velasco out of sight of the enemy's ships.
I have not as yet seen Colonel Sulakowski, but will consult with him in regard to defending the west end of this island. As a general rule, I am strongly opposed to the system of small fortifications, unless they are so located as to be easily relieved or evacuated, and in the latter case we have so little artillery that we can ill afford to lose any. Such positions always fall an easy conquest to the enemy when he advances with a view to invade the country. My opinion is that the enemy, as soon as he learns the movement of our troops, will operate with his whole force against Velasco or this place, or he may land at Saint Luis, and make a rapid march on Houston, with a view to destroy our depots, railroads, &c. The general commanding, however, is much better acquainted with the country than I am, and in all respects better qualified to judge.
I will add that, owing to the different caliber of the guns at Velasco, should some of them be disabled, the ammunition will not fit others, and that there are no extra carriages. The latter is also the case with regard to most of the guns at this place.
Having been detailed on a general court at Houston, where are also all the depots, I shall move my headquarters to that city as soon as the court meets.
Captain Ransom, chief quartermaster on my staff, reports that he has made a careful examination of the transportation pertaining to this subdistrict, and finds it inadequate. I shall use every effort to increase its efficiency. I shall also endeavor to get at least twenty days' salt meat for this place, as it is evident should the enemy land he will get possession of all the live stock. The rifled gun ordered to Velasco had not arrived when I left.
I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
JAS. E. SLAUGHTER,
Brigadier- General, Commanding.
HEADQUARTERS DISTRICT OF TEXAS,&c., Numbers 329.
Victoria, Tex., December 3, 1863.
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XIII. The commands of Colonels Woods and Pyron are hereby directed to proceed by forced marches toward Columbia on the road from