Respectfully returned to His Excellency the President.
This telegram is inconsistent, and exhibits a heedless disregard of the facts of the case. Since the retreat of the army now commanded by General Johnston it has been subsisted from the State of Florida and Georgia. It is entirely on account of the system of securing supplies now in operation that the troops in a department cannot retain the supplies in that department for their own exclusive use, as is alleged by General Johnston. In consequence of this system the troops in the Department of South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida have been obliged to share their supply of meat with the Army of Tennessee.
In the latter part of October, 1863, upon a suggestion from this bureau, Major Summings sent an efficient agent to Mississippi, who, with Major Dameron's co-operation, was to examine and report what quantity of subsistence, particularly of cattle and hogs, could be secured in North Mississippi. On the 13th of November, 1863, that agent reported to Major Cummings that he had made an examination of the country referred to, and Major Dameron and himself unitedly petitioned General Johnston (then in command in Mississippi) to furnish the military aid absolutely necessary to secure the cattle and hogs-of the former 3,000 or 4,000, and of the latter about 10,000. Owing to the proximity of the enemy the people would not undertake to drive up their stock to deliver to the agents of this department without a show of force. This military protection was refused by General Johnston.
Efforts were repeatedly made by Major Dameron to obtain military assistance from General Johnston, and he also frequently begged of him transportation to enable him to secure supplies of sugar from points near the enemy's lines. These efforts were uniformly unsuccessful.
On 27th January, Major Dameron reported that during the week previous he had sent 1,000 head of cattle to Major Cummings, and that he would continue to extend all the help he could to the Army of Tennessee.
On the 19th of January, General Johnston was informed by the bureau that the subject of getting cattle and other supplies for the Army of Tennessee had been considered and action taken by instructions to Majors Dameron, of Mississippi, and Walker, of Alabama, and Major Cummings was instructed to reopen communication with them on the subject.
When General Forrest went into West Tennessee, Major Wilson, chief commissary of that State, sent officers with funds to co-operate and secure the subsistence supplies. They were not permitted by General Forrest to get anything there, for reasons satisfactory to him.
Major Dameron reports himself in readiness to take advantage of every forward movement in West Tennessee.
General Johnston, in November, 1862, assumed command of the department embracing Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana, east of the Mississippi River. It was all-important that the army of General Bragg should be subsisted from Tennessee. This bureau had there an agent whom had always contributed greatly to the supply of the troops in Tennessee, and he had engaged large stores in Middle Tennessee. There were in that section immense