DEMOPOLIS, March 15, 1864.
Adjutant and Inspector General:
General Lee, from Canton, reports a considerable number of Sherman's troops gone up river on furlough from Vicksburg. McPherson left in command at Vicksburg. Sherman and Hurlbut gone down river with large part of army on forty-two boats; said to be going up Red River as far as Shreveport. McPherson reports the spring campaign inaugurated by Sherman, Ranks, Thomas, and Smith a failure. General Forrest states that seven-eighths of Smith's cavalry have gone to Nashville. General Maury's scouts report many troops sent in sea steamers to florida.
Send this dispatch also to General Johnston.
WAR DEPARTMENT, C. S. A.,
Richmond, Va., March 15, 1864.
Lieutenant General L. POLK,
GENERAL: Your letter of February 29* was received a few days since by the hands of the officer instructed with its delivery, but my engagements were at the time so pressing I was unable to reply before his return.
I regret to be unable to accord with you in the views you entertain and the changes you propose in the control of the commissary arrangements of your department. You are scarcely aware, perhaps, of the many embarrassments and difficulties which existed, before the present system wa adopted, in collecting supplies for the general commissariat, and their equitable distribution among the various armies of the respective departments. So long as the control vested with the commander of each department over the operations of the quartermaster and commissary bureaus within his military command, there always was, as there naturally would be a decided predominance given to the supply and provision by each commander of his special command; not until stores deemed ample by each, not only for present use, but possible contingencies, were supplied to his own department, was there aid or even permission given to the officers of the bureau to obtain and remove supplies for other armies. It not unferquently happened, indeed, that commanders of adjoining departments, instead of aiding, were zealously operating against each other to prevent any resources from being withdrawn from their respective departments. this course of action, while always injurious, could yet be borne so long as the resources of each department sufficed in the main for the needs of the special command, but when, as more recently has become the case, it is absolutely necessary for the maintenance of the armies in some of the departments that supplies should be drawn from others, it becomes absolutely necessary to correct the evil and adopt a more general system.
* See part II, p. 814.