I have already taken measures to have all the roads broken up by him rebuilt, and shall press that work vigorously. The amount of road destroyed by him may be in all about 50 miles, extending out on the four roads from Meridian as a center. While upon this subject I desire to say that it is of the highest importance that measures be taken to have the road from Selma to the Tombigbee finished and the bridge over that river built. I hope the government will take immediate steps to have this effected. For the want of it has taken the greatest exertions to save the public property exposed by the recent movements of the enemy, and such risks should not be taken again. the movements consequent upon the presence of the enemy in this department have demonstrated also that which has been too apparent before, to wit, that the system of having subsistence and quartermaster's agents in this department who are working independently of the supervision and control of the department commander operates most injuriously to the public service. Any system which makes a commander in the field dependent for his supplies upon parties over whom he has no control cannot but work badly, and it may be fatally, to his command. All the benefits proposed to be accomplished by the existing arrangements can be much better secured by devolving the responsibility of collecting subsistence and quartermaster's stores as well as field transportation directly on the department commander. He is upon the spot, can supervise agents much more closely than the chief of a bureau at Richmond, and correct abuses as well as secure efficiency. Besides, nothing can be more inconvenient, to say nothing more of it, than to require the requisitions of a commander at this distance from the seat of government to send his requisitions for stores to Richmond to be approved before the goods can be drawn from the depots.
All the evils of the system could be cured by charging the department commander with the duty of having all these stores collected by his own staff. It is as easy for him to have provision returns showing the amount of all the subsistence in his department made to the War Department every ten days as it is for him to have a field return showing the number of his troops, and he is bound to respond to a requisition for the one as for the other by the department should they be needed in a distant field. Besides all this, having two or more sets of quartermasters in the department multiplies officials and their retainers to a pernicious extent and produces no small amount of confusion.
I repeat, all the evils of the existing system in regard to the collection of quartermaster's stores, field transportation, and subsistence could be cured by having the work done through the department commander, who should not interfered with in the administration of his department by parties from without acting under a distant authority. I assure you that a large amount of the inefficiency exhibited in these departments arises from the improper distribution of responsibility and supervision, to say nothing of its annoyance, and I earnestly hope it may be changed.
I remain, respectfully, your obedient servant,
His Excellency President DAVIS.