The statement regarding boats in the Ouachita was simply forwarded for the information of the lieutenant-general. Most of the boats are old and much worn, and as we did not absolutely need them here, I gave them permission to come instead of ordering them, as I did not desire to make the Government responsible for their loss by capture or otherwise. In addition, General Holmes' position made it probable that some boats were necessary for his command, a matter better understood at department headquarters than here. The steamer Beauregard and the steam barge Star came voluntarily, and the Frolic was brought around with guard, information having reached me that the owners intended to run her out to the Mississippi. These, with the Anna Perrette and Dixie, previously here below the falls, are ample for the service, and I do not deem it advisable to take any steps which would render the Government liable for the loss of boats now in the Ouachita.
I return as directed the order of the 4th instant regarding private cotton, and will exercise the discretion intrusted to me. It only remains to clear up the question of the amount of cotton belonging to the Government now unsold in the Ouachita Valley. As I understand the matter, the whole amount of cotton purchased for Government in that region is 25,000 bales. Of these, 5,357 bales have been sold to Mr. Menard, as appears from the list furnished me and from Lieutenant-Colonel Broadwell's statement. This is not to be moved in any event and cannot be sold by the Government. Colonel Broadwell further writes me, in a communication of the 9th instant, that "of the Ouachita cotton 19,000 bales have been placed in the hands of Captain Stevenson," and that of these Captain Stevenson would obtain only some 12,000 bales, owing to the waste, bad order, &c. Captain Stevenson also explained to me that his arrangement covered some 19,000 bales.
The statement of the whole amount of cotton purchased, per Government account, in the Ouachita region was furnished by Major McKee, the purchasing agent. According to him, the amount, 25,000 bales, includes all purchases made by Mr. De Bow, as well as by his agent, Dr. Young. The addition of the two amounts covered by the arrangements with Messrs. Menard and Stevenson gives 24,357 bales, which sum subtracted from 25,000, the entire amount ever owned by Government in the Ouachita region, leaves nothing for the Government to burn or sell, if allowance is made for waste known to have occurred.
The above figures are from official sources, and supposed to be correct. There is some little doubt whether the arrangement with Captain Stevenson is final, as he stated to me, when here, that his plan required the sanction of the lieutenant-general commanding. Throwing out the Ouachita cotton, there is none owned by the Government east of the parallel of Alexandria, consequently none I would deem it proper to sell on the ground of danger, and will therefore continue the exchange or barter I am now carrying on until further advised. Should it appear, however, that there is a mistake as to the above facts, and there still remains cotton belonging to Government in the Ouachita region, I will endeavor to sell such without delay, even for Confederate currency, rather than destroy it.
Respectfully, your obedient servant,