Cape Girardeau, prevented losses, as I think, infinitely greater than the cost of the field-works and the guns inside; besides, I have but few troops and must therefore use embankments and siege guns to help guard stores.
I also wrote for light pieces of artillery, which on prairies and in mountains I have found so very useful as to be everywhere desired in this region of country. Great excitement is growing up in regard to new gold mines, and new routes to the mines will probably end some protection. A few cavalry with mounted howitzers will be the best force for escorts, and I have therefore asked for a large supply, but no more than necessary for guarding boats, arming cavalry, and guarding overland routes economically. I have also asked for cavalry and infantry arms. There are two regiments of cavalry here, one full and the other nearly so, without carbines or revolvers; I want to put them in the field. The old regiments are never more than half armed, and I earnestly desire to have all my cavalry armed with the new be repeating fire-arms, so they can be of the utmost strength.
The Kansas cavalry can be made very effective. They are good horsemen and brave.
I have also asked for infantry arms. We have new and substantial store-houses for ordinance, and arsenal building erected that will soon be supplied with machinery. I think it would be well to have, say, 10,000 good muskets for accidental demand, and to be carefully repaired and ready for the occasion. To prevent misunderstandings and secure the utmost celerity of moves against rebel raids, I have urged some express understanding as to troops that must be stationed at Van Buren and Fort Smith, and how they are to be amply supplied during the high water in the Arkansas River. Fort Smith is on the wrong side of the river, on ground ill suited to defensive works. Van Buren, 4 miles below, is on this side, and the heights adjacent command the lower country and river, and could be better fortified.
If we make a great depot on the Fort Smith side it would invite assault, but if any stores are on the north side of the Arkansas a river and a mountain are part of our defenses. Besides, stores and forces on the other side of the Arkansas can be cut off from forces on this side, by burning or crippling of a ferry-boat, an accident or design that may be apprehended. As the vicinity of Fort Smith crossing connects with the road and mountain passes which seem to be the doorway and avenue for rebel movements into Missouri, Kansas, and the Indian Territory, I consider it important that should be well located, fortified, and garrisoned with a force sufficient to take any rebel force in flank or rear that small dare to cross the Arkansas River either 50 [miles] above or below.
We have now got the armed rebels mainly below the Arkansas. Our gun-boats can operate on the river in high water, and it becomes the proper base for forces of this department. Some troubles are apprehended with guerrillas organizations on the Missouri border, and some force is therefore necessary to quiet matters there; but generally matters seem quiet, and I shall do all in my power to keep them so. Hoping to receive your co-operation and directions in the premises.
I have the honor to be, general, your obedient servant,
S. R. CURTIS,