expect the Indians in front to remain quietly at home, when their white brethren in their rear, many of them, desert their homes because of danger.
I know that it is desirable to send the refugees down to their own country; but your agents are feeding the frightened refugees that have gathered about Fort Gibson, at six or eight times the cost of feeding the same sort of refugees near Lawrence. Before the latter are sent down to join the former it is proper this matter should be understood by you, as well as the greater danger because of their proximity to their enemies.
I must distribute my force in view of preventing, as far as possible, the rebels from crossing in force to the north side of the Arkansas, and will give all the protection I can to Indians who come within reach of my forces so located.
I am also trying to arrange a line of operation, with convenient supports, from Fort Scott to Fort Gibson. This line and these supports will run through the central and best portions of the Indian country, and afford some shelter for Indians. But my force is so limited at present I may not keep this line open. I was sorry to see in the Indian country near our military posts, where the Indians were better protected last year than the Kansas people, the Indians made little or no efforts to cultivate their farms, and I fear that timidity and idleness will greatly increase the difficulty of carrying out your very benevolent and proper desire to secure a renewal of agricultural pursuits by the Indians.
I have seen the communication of Cherokee chief men to your Department, urging the matter of locating troops at certain points, to guard these Indians, and asking that Indian troops may be used for this service. As far as the service will allow, I will gladly conform to those wishes, but the locations do not suit my views of a proper disposition of my present forces to check apprehended movements of rebels, and there is no telling what changes rebels may make, and what corresponding changes I would have to adopt. Clearly the Arkansas River, in preference to interior points, must be well guarded. The Indian troops are all we now have above Fort Smith to protect the lines and posts, and there is no idea on my part of removing them. But we need white troops also in addition to these.
Your suggestion favoring the assignment of General Mitchell to the command in that region was not received in time to give it the effective success I should have been pleased to accord to a request emanating from so high a source.
I had assigned General Blunt to the front, to which his rank and former success in conquering and repelling the foe seemed to entitle him. Colonel Phillips, of Fort Gibson, is apparently the most devoted friend of the Indians, but he cannot and does not promise what we would all like to-peace and security to the Indian country. It would not seem proper for me to present my views of adequate force and proper movement of troops beyond my own lines except to such proper commanders as should be advised and desire them. You will, however, yourself perceive that I have need of more men and means to drive the enemy beyond Red River, and make that instead of the Arkansas the line of defense. I desire to avoid relinquishment of forfeitures, express or implied. The letters to chiefs concerning a surrender and restoration to their rights you will perceive were written by Colonel Phillips before receiving mine