this is completed and we are ready for operations on Red River I shall reduce both of these posts to the lowest strength consistent with their safety, for concentration of my command elsewhere. I inclose copy of communication from Admiral Porter, which shows the condition of Red River and the Atchafalaya. From this it would appear that some delay would occur before any extensive operations can be carried out in that direction. As I stated in my last dispatch, I have sent officers to communicate with General Sherman, or General McPherson in case of General Sherman's absence, and also with General Steele, and shall hold myself in readiness to co-operate with them.
A dispatch from Port Hudson states that General Bragg and his staff crossed the Mississippi on the 6th instant. There are various rumors concerning the nature of his business. It is most probable, I think, that he acts in the capacity of Assistant Secretary of War, leaving General Kirby Smith in command of the military forces as before. Their forces are divided between Shreveport, Alexandria, and Simsport, and are stated to number in all some 25,000 men, including all their conscripts. This is doubtless an exaggeration of numbers, but their strength is considerable. They are fortifying at various points and strengthening Fort De Russy, on the Red River, and the passage of the river at that point is filled by heavy rafts and other obstructions.
Everything is prosperous in this department; business is increasing rapidly, public opinion in favor of the Government greatly strengthened, and the whole tone of society greatly improved. The election on the 22nd will show a very respectable vote, satisfactory to the Government and to the country. I desire it to be understood that my attention to this matter will not delay in any respect military operations. The enlistment of volunteers in the veteran corps is very general, but the command is seriously weakened by furloughs granted in pursuance of this enlistment order.
I have the honor to be, with much respect, your obedient servant,
N. P. BANKS,
[Inclosure Numbers 1.]
HEADQUARTERS U. S. FORCES ON THE RIO GRANDE,
Brownsville, Tex., January 25, 1864.
Brigadier General CHARLES P. STONE,
Chief of Staff:
GENERAL: Governor Ruiz waited upon me this morning and exhibited a letter from Don Sebastian Lerdo de Tejada, minister of [foreign] relations of the Republic, notifying him to beware of one Jose Domingo Cortes, who is traveling about representing himself to be a general in the Mexican army, but who is really an impostor. The said Cortes has already been to Washington, figuring extensively there as a diplomatic agent of President Juarez.
He is a Spaniard by birth, is not a citizen of Mexico, and is pronounced by Juarez an impostor, and has no connection whatever with the Mexican Government. I write you this information, as Cortes sails in the next steamer for New Orleans. He represents to me that he is an agent of Juarez, and visits Washington now to procure leave to ship certain arms from the United States into Mexico,