now should be occupied by us in rendering this force efficient, drilled, and disciplined. If the Indian Territory gives way the granary of the Trans-Mississippi Department, the breadstuffs, and beef of this and the Arkansas army are gone, the left flank of Holmes' army is turned, and with it not only the meat and bread, but the salt and iron of what is left of the Trans-Mississippi Department.
The wonderful importance of so strengthening this army as to enable it to regain Fort Smith and Fort Gibson and to expel the enemy from this territory has never been realized by those not conversant with the geography of this country, its bearing on Northern Texas, and the absolute necessity of the grain, beef, salt, and iron of that country to the Trans-Mississippi Department. Let this territory be once recovered, and the army here would then be cut loose to operate on the right flank and rear of Steele's army, destroying supply trains and depots in rear, and thus render essential assistance to the recovery of Arkansas. I do not believe the militia of the Northern Sub-District should have been moved south. The operations in Southern Texas may be ever so successful, it will avail but little if the valleys of Red River and upper Trinity fall. For all practical purposes in defending their own country this militia had as well be east of the Mississippi. I know very well that the forces as the command of General Smith are very limited. The question is, where can this limited force best be used? If the whole country cannot be saved, what part had best be given up? The forces at Fort Gibson and Fort Smith must now depend to a great extent upon wagon trains. When the Arkansas rises, if the navigation of that river is left uninterrupted, they can get everything they want and lay in spring supplies.
I expressed to General Smith, in conversation, the belief that if the enemy could get force enough, they would move upon Northern Texas with an army sufficient to "hold, occupy, and possess." In that case they may move down the Line road, although they have to pass between two armies, and at once sap the grain and iron interest. With a less force than that they will endeavor to move on the Overland road, striking Red River at Preston or Colbert's Ferry, in Grayson County. I have heretofore called the attention of the general to the great deficiency in arms. I beg to suggest the policy of getting every Indian capable of bearing arms into the Confederate service. "Whosoever is not for us is against us." They are here, have to be provided for, and can be better managed thus than otherwise. The length of this communication makes it wearisome, but I could not say what I wished in fewer words.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
S. B. MAXEY,
Inasmuch as the Cherokee, Creek, and Choctaw Nations have been induced to believe by their ruling men and the authorities at Richmond, as I am advised and do believe, that in the event they each raise and put into the Confederate service three regiments there will be three brigades of Indians organized, I respectfully suggest that if consistent with your views, and you desire all the arms-bearing Indians in the service, that you authorize me to say as much. I am satisfied it would be a fine recruiting order.