Colonel J. S. Ford. In regard to the movements of the enemy, I have nothing of special interest to communicate. Advices that seem to be reliable [and believed by Colonel Davis] state that Colonel J. S. Ford is at Laredo, 200 miles above this on the river, with seven companies, numbering about 400 men, and two pieces of artillery, the force of Colonel Santos Benavides forming a portion of Ford's command. I have spies near there who will bring in reliable reports within a few days.
This force will not dare to move from its present position, and can only hope to open trade at that point for a short time. This and 150 men at Eagle Pass are the only rebel troops on the Rio Grande. If our cavalry was in condition it would be well to make a move against Ford and force him back from the river, but in its present condition nothing can be done. A few days since a small rebel scouting party from San Patricio, 20 in number, visited King's Ranch, 120 miles north of this, but did [not] venture any nearer. Refugees state the number of troops at San Antonio as 150, and a mere patrol of 50 men at Austin.
Mr. McManus, a man who was sent by General Dana through Mexico to Piedras Negras to raise a force and operate against rebel trains on the San Antonio and Eagle Pass route, arrived at Piedras Negras on December 29 and had collected some men. Late advices from Mr. Kimmey, vice-consul at Monterey, state a rumor had reached there of an order from San Antonio prohibiting the shipment of any more cotton by the Eagle Pass route and giving it as his opinion that the operations of McManus had caused it. If he can collect 150 men about him there is no doubt but that he will effectually close up that road, for he is a desperate man. Should these rumors prove correct and McManus get a foothold at Eagle Pass it will probably compel Ford to withdraw from the river. Large quantities of goods have been shipped within the pst four weeks from Matamoras and Monterey into Texas. But the action of Governor Ruiz a few days since had the effect of stopping further shipments from Matamoras.
Learning that Major-General Banks' letter of November 13, 1863, addressed to L. Pierce,jr., consul of the United States at Matamoras, complaining of certain matters, had never been brought to the attention of the present authorities, I procured a copy,* sending it direct to Governor Ruiz with the inclosed note. The consequence was an immediate proclamation issued by Ruiz forbidding the sale or shipment from the State of Tamaulipas of contraband of war for the use of Confederates and threatening severe punishment to any merchants of Matamoras engaging in this traffic. In regard to the cotton lying at Matamoras, he informed me that he would look into the matter, and if circumstances would warrant it he would seize all within the State. His action produced quite a consternation, and no cotton has come within his State since. From Monterey I learn that Vidauri will probably seize all the Confederate cotton in his State to make good the loans of Milmo [Vidauri's son-in-law] House to the Confederacy. The matter was talked of somewhat in Monterey, and the best-informed persons think the seizure will be made. By these means the traffic between Mexico and Texas can be completely broken up. Recruiting goes on fairly, the First Texas Cavalry numbering at present 580 men, and the Second Texas [composed of
*See Vol. XXVI, Part I,p.796.