HEADQUARTERS CHIEF OF CAVALRY, MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI,
Nashville, Tennessee, November 26, 1863.
Chief of Cavalry Bureau, Washington, D. C.:
SIR: Upon my assignment to duty as chief of cavalry in the Military Division of the Mississippi, I inspected the corrals in this city containing the horses sent here for issue to the cavalry of the Department of the Cumberland. I found many of them totally unfit for service from defects so manifest as to compel the conviction that purchasing quartermasters and inspectors are guilty of a fraud upon the Government, which would be consummated by permitting such animals to be issued. Many of them were over fifteen years old, some blind, and some badly spavined. Nothing but uniform failure could be anticipated from cavalry mounted on such animals. I reported the facts to Quartermaster-General Meigs, and took Assistant Quartermaster Donaldson through the corrals, that he might see for himself. Many of the horses were ordered condemned at once, and efforts are being made to ascertain by whom they were purchased. It has been suggested that each inspector be required to brand a private mark on the hoof of every horse he passes, a fac-simile of this mark to be sent to the headquarters of the department for which the horses were purchased. In addition to this, permit me to suggest that all inspectors shall be required to give bond in sums sufficient to make them responsible for any amount to which they might have it in their power to cover their frauds upon the Government. Then every horse passed by them and unfit for service by reason of manifest defects of long standing shall be charged back to the inspector, with all expenses named added.
Some such system as the one roughly sketched above will have to be adopted before such horses, and such only, are purchased for the cavalry service as are in every way fitted for it.
It is sufficiently difficult to compel volunteers to take care of good horses; those manifestly unfit for service in the beginning they will kill as soon as possible.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
W. SOOY SMITH,
Brigadier-General, Chief of Cav., Mil. Div. of the Miss.
CUMBERLAND GAP, November 26, 1863-10.30 a.m.
Another of my couriers from General Burnside has just got in Tazewell from a house in the mountains where he lay concealed last night. He learned from the family that the rebels when they had crossed the mountain went toward Rogersville. This indicates rather a want of confidence in Longstreet's success or a fear of movement on salt-works. His dispatches from General Burnside are on the way to me.
O. B. WILLCOX,