HEADQUARTERS TRANS-MISSISSIPPI DEPARTMENT,
Camden, Ark., December 15, 1863.
Major General J. B. MAGRUDER, Commanding District of Texas:
GENERAL: General Taylor has been instructed to push forward the movement of Green's division to your support as rapidly as possible. Re-enforced by this command, I trust you will be able to give a good account of the Federal force which has landed on the Texas coast.
By the last dispatches from Louisiana, General Banks, in person, had returned to New Orleans: the major portion of his army was still in Louisiana.
No reliable information of the sailing of more than 6,000 men for the Texas coast had been received. The return of General Banks was, however, conjecture to be for the purpose of forwarding re-enforcements.
The political condition of Arkansas, with its capital and the Arkansas Valley in possession of the enemy, gives me great anxiety. General Steele, by his moderation and conciliatory course, is fast reconciling if not winning over the people to his support. He holds the wealthy and populous portion of the State; has already organized four Arkansas regiments, and although his force is comparatively weak, if he remains in undisturbed occupation this winter, he will be so strengthened, both physically and politically, that not only the military possession of the State will be lost us, but I fear its political weight will be thrown into the scales against us. With Arkansas go the Indian Territory and the Northern Sub-District of Texas. You know the limited means at my disposal, and the immense responsibility and territory confided to my trust. Relief can only be afforded at one point by extraordinary exertions or sacrifices at another.
The affairs of this State have now about reached a culminating point, and this winter must decide whether or not the northern and most wealthy section is to fall into the same deplorable state of conquest that exists in Missouri. Steele is not strong, and, with the condition of military operations east of the Mississippi, cannot receive re-enforcements. This time, if not propitious, offers the only opportunity that will ever present [itself] for striking a blow for the recovery of the Arkansas Valley. I shall draw two brigades from Taylor, and by a quick, vigorous campaign endeavor to free the Arkansas Valley from its invaders, restore confidence to the people, and swell up the ranks of Holmes' depleted command. Relieved in Arkansas, I can efficiently and strongly re-enforce and concentrate in Texas or Lower Louisiana as the enemy's operations may require. The troops of this command have been disheartened and demoralized by constant ill-success. With a paper force of about 20,000 infantry, not over 5,100 can be found for duty, and were they ordered from the State, it is doubtful whether many would remain true to their colors. A success on the Arkansas River would bring back the absentees, give an esprit to the troops, and leave a respectable force disposable for operations without the District of Arkansas.
I am, general, respectfully, your obedient servant,
[E. KIRBY SMITH.]
HEADQUARTERS DISTRICT OF TEXAS, &C.,
McNeel's Plantation, December 15, 1863.
Brigadier General THOS. GREEN, Commanding,&c.:
GENERAL: Hasten on your command as rapidly as possible. The enemy, in force, is pressing on all sides.