HEADQUARTERS INDIAN BRIGADE,
Fort Gibson, Cherokee Nation, March 7, 1864.
Major General S. R. CURTIS,
Commanding Dept of Kansas, Fort Leavenworth, Kans.:
SIR: The question of supplies being of the first importance, I deem it my duty to communicate-
First. That my transportation being altogether inadequate, I have had to use regimental and every other kind of transportation I could press, to gather wheat and breadstuff from the line. I urged that more transportation be sent me so that I could rest and save it a little, but was refused. I have had to work everything apparently to get short rations.
Second. The supplies I have been getting from the border of Arkansas are being drained, and will not last me much more than a month longer. I have sent nine 6-mule teams and ten 6-mules wagons with the oxen to Fort Scott, believing that, as there are a few mules there, it could be made a mule train of twenty or twenty-five wagons, and started back at once, which is important to prevent great suffering. Five or six wagons, loaded with the most needful quartermaster's stores, pantaloons, socks, and shoes, will save us much in the efficiency of the men.
The rest, loaded with condensed food, such as sugar, coffee, molasses, desiccated potatoes, &c., will actually haul more subsistence than I could haul in flour, and preserve better health [than] where beef is eaten. I want no pork or salt bacon, which, though good for health in summer season, is too heavy to haul with our limited transportation now. I send up nearly 100 pair of oxen, about 40 yoked, to take up the empty mule wagons, the remainder to be yoked up there. I learn there are ox wagons at Leavenworth and yokes and chains. I urge that it be directed to be organized into an ox train of twenty wagons and started down toward the close of March, with three or four days' corn. When it strikes the valley of Grand River, April 1, it can live on grass. It could bring supplies equal to forty or fifty mule teams. Of the 200 head of oxen I send that were brought out of the enemy's country, 35 head were claimed by loyal Creek soldiers as having been taken from them by rebels. I told them to get the evidence. All are reported by the quartermaster as contraband. Should the Government not conclude to use ox trains, they can get them back; if used, they will only cost the Government from $20 to $30 per pair or yoke.
Third. In the present great scarcity of mules I have already urged the employment of ox trains on the grass route west of Grand River. I have found where I can get them about 600 steers belonging to the rebel estate of Roley McIntosh and a rebel man, Miller; they are 35 miles from this. In the same vicinity I can get from 500 to 1,000 head, the property of our loyal Creek soldiers. These can be bought from $20 ro $40 per pair or yoke. I wish to suggest that, if it meet with approval, I could start up, the moment I get the order, 1,200 head of steers in this way to Leavenworth, there to be yoked in and loaded and started back before the 1st of May, before which time there will be plenty of grass, making a train of 200 wagons. The expense would be very light.
I make these suggestions because I see my command will suffer and barely be able to exist but by the most strenuous exertions. If the Government buys oxen at all, it could do it far more cheaply