taken cognizance of and adjudicated upon actions of debt, trespass, & c., between persons not in the military service. I am directed by the Secretary of War to say that military commissions and military courts in your department have no jurisdiction of such cases, and that their decisions are entirely null and void. Moreover, the individual members may thus render themselves liable to punishment and damages. The practice, if it exists, should be immediately discontinued.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
H. W. HALLECK,
HDQRS. SEVENTH ARMY CORPS AND DEPT. OF ARK.,
Little Rock, Ark., February 5, 1864.
Major General N. P. BANKS,
Commanding Department of the Gulf:
GENERAL: Your letter of the 25th ultimo was received this morning by the hands of Captain Dunham. I have endeavored to communicate with your forces in Louisiana and Texas by means of spies sent across the country. One of them returned this evening, having been below Shreveport, and thence to the Mississippi River. Captain Dunham will converse with him. I learn that the rebels have forage stations every 10 miles from Monroe, La., to within 40 miles of Pine Bluff, Ark. It is reported that they were provided for General Taylor's troops that were to march against Pine Bluff in concert with Holmes' command. The roads are now in such condition that an army could not move from here to the Ouachita with artillery or trains, and I am told that they will be impracticable for several months to come. I could not supply the advanced post at Benton on account of bad roads. It is therefore evident that if an advance movement is to be made soon, it must be made up the Ouachita and Red Rivers. If the troops should be moved down from Fort Smith to hold the mountain passes, sufficient forces moving up the two rivers could drive the rebels into Texas, which would probably cause many of the Missouri and Arkansas men to desert, and perhaps of the Texans also.
I may be able to move my command, by way of Pine Bluff, to Monroe by the time you will be ready to go up Red River, as this route is said to be practicable earlier than the one by Camden or that by Arkadelphia. However, there are serious objections to it. Holmes has a large mounted force. It is impossible for me to state with any certainty how large a force I can concentrate. A large proportion of my command have enlisted as veterans and are going on furlough. As matters in the Army are influenced so much by political intrigue, it is not certain that these troops will return to my command. The limits of my department are not perfectly defined. Fort Smith is excluded from it. The fort of that name is in the Indian Territory, or partly so, and the town in Arkansas. I was informed by an officer from there this evening that the troops at some of the posts this side of there were being moved out of Arkansas. I hope, however, to be able to advance with 10,000 well-appointed troops, leaving enough to hold the line of the Arkansas. This will be more than a match for Holmes' 12,000 or 15,000. My troops are scattered, but it is the best arrangement under present