MERIDIAN, MISS., January 17, 1864.
COLONEL: I have the honor to submit the following as being the result of a tour of inspection made by me in Southwestern Mississippi, pursuant to Special Orders, No. 28, dated Meridian, Miss., December 2, 1863:
Verbal instructions from General Johnston directed me to find and inspect all detached companies of cavalry in my route, and examine into the condition of the country, the amount of traffic with the enemy, &c. My route was from Jackson to Port Gibson and thence through the river counties to Woodville and return, via Liberty, Brookhaven, and Crystal Springs.
I found no detached companies deserving the name of company during my entire tour, and no organizations pretending to the name until I arrived at Woodville. At this place I found several recruiting and organizing for a regiment, the organization of which Colonel F. P. Powers has authority, or at least claims to have. These companies not being complete either in numbers or equipment I did not inspect them, as their condition could be easily imagined. A command known as Wingfield's Partisans have long been stationed in the vicinity of Port Hudson, and have gained the universal dissatisfaction of the citizens of the section of the country in which they have operated; they are at present under command of a Captain E. A. Scott. I went to this camp to inspect them, but I found on reaching it that they had disbanded and gone home to spend the Christmas holidays. Besides the command being organized here by Colonel Powers there is one (in prospect) for Colonel Jones S. Hamilton, for which he claims to have special authority from the War Department. I submit herewith a dispatch from him (marked A) to the captain of one of his proposed companies. It will be of service to know something of the company in question and also that Colonel Powers had been placed in command of the district by General Johnston. The company was organized some time during the past summer by the county officials as a patrol to keep the negroes in order; it was fed, clothed, and paid by the county. When Colonel Powers took command of the district, with authority to organize a regiment, the captain of the company, J. T. Netterville, proposed joining, and received the consent of Colonel Powers; when afterward Colonel Hamilton came with his authority, Captain Netterville proposed joining him, and was also accepted by Colonel H., and on the receipt of the telegraphic order of Colonel H. disobeyed an important order from Colonel Powers. I would suggest that the issuing of such an order on the part of Colonel Hamilton evinces such ignorance of military laws and regulations as to incapacitate him from any command, and therefore recommend that his authority be revoked.
At present there are no troops in the section embraced in my tour that can be relived on for any service. Colonel Dillon, who is now in command there, is an intelligent and active officer and may succeed in effectively organizing the straggling companies there.
I found blockade running or illicit traffic with the enemy to be general on my whole route. It is confined principally to the procuring of family supplies and necessaries. The trade in cotton has been considerable, though not to the extent as reported by the enemy and rumor bearers. There are persons, and many, who would suffer for