for gold. The planters and small traders carried Treasury notes there to purchase supplies and replenish their stocks of goods, and were forced to submit to its depreciation in selling it for gold to the men who had obtained the gold for Texas cotton bought of the planters with Confederate notes.
I ascertained at the conscript bureau in Texas that over 5,000 conscripts had been detailed to drive teams in hauling off cotton for those private speculators. The effect of those regulations and impositions has been very detrimental. In Houston, a gentleman bought a house and lot of another, and offered to pay him 500 bales of cotton without a "military permit" allowing its exportation, or 200 bales with such a permit. The vender accepted the 200 bales. I was told by business men in that city that a bale with a permit is worth three bales without one. The effect of those measures has been a vicious spirit of speculation on the part of the favored, and a deep feeling of dissatisfaction on the part of the people who are made the victims. I inclose you a published copy of one of Major-General Magruder's orders upon the subject, which will show the extent of the authority claimed and exercised by him. These measures have greatly tested both the patience and patriotism of the people of Texas. They are well aware that they are acts of gross usurpation they have submitted to, under the full assurance that you would apply the corrective.
In my intercourse with the people I assured them that those acts did not meet your sanction, and should in nowise impair their confidence in the Government here. I will further state that, notwithstanding the appointment of agents of the War and Treasury Departments to buy cotton in Texas, no respect seems to be paid to them or the law by the military, but the quartermasters there seem to have been converted into cotton speculators on Government account, and have their agents traversing the country and buying up cotton. Several cotton transactions have taken place of an extraordinary character. The following is one: A lot of powder was imported by Mr. McCauley, late of New Orleans; he was paid for the powder in cotton at 4 5/8 cents per pound.
About the time I left Texas (November 1) an arrangement was in negotiation between the military authorities, through Major Russell, General Bee's quartermaster, and Dregge, Oetling & Co., of Matamoras, by which all the Government cotton in Texas was to be consigned to that firm, who were to advance 8 cents per pound in specie; they were to ship and sell the cotton, charging 10 per cent. commission and 12 per cent. interest on the advances, but to make no claim for compensation, so as to reduce the amount to be realized by the Government below 8 cents per pound. That firm, by transactions with the State of Texas, as I learned them from the agents of the State, have proven themselves wholly unreliable, and ought not to be trusted. The statement of this transaction shows an immense margin for fraud. I will say further that the advantages afforded to private speculators in cotton have in a great degree prevented the Government agents from obtaining transportation to carry off the cotton purchased by them, and large quantities are wasting and rotting on the plantations where purchased, and the Army is deprived of the supplies which should long since have been purchased and paid for with that cotton.
I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
W. S. OLDHAM.