ALEXANDRIA, January 16, 1864.
Chief of Staff:
GENERAL: I have the honor to report that I have just received the following information from a source deemed by me reliable: The number of troops of all arms sent to Texas amounts to 14,000. There is no indication at present of a design to send re-enforcements from New Orleans. Banks has in and around the city, including 3,000 on the Teche. 15,000 men. This estimate does not include negro troops. Hamilton, the Governor of Texas that is to be, has returned from the Texas coast and is in New Orleans. The Federals do not speak hopefully of accomplishing much more in Texas. It is well understood that the next expedition from New Orleans will move on the Red River; this as soon as there is a permanent rise in the water. A fleet of seven gun-boats was seen at the mouth of Red River for some days engaged in sounding the bars, but as yet none have entered Old River. McPherson is in New Orleans in consultation with Banks, probably to combine their operations in this quarter. The Mississippi is falling, and the Red at Fort De Russy has fallen 18 inches in the last five days, and is falling now 8 inches per day. I trust the fall may continue so as to give us time on our works.
The object of the enemy is, first, to cut off the Mexican trade and establish himself on the sea-coast of Texas. His operations there will be confined to the coast, securing good harbors, establishing depots, and organizing transportation with the ulterior purpose of taking advantage of the diversion to be created by the Red River column and Steele's Arkansas movement. Doubtless Galveston, Velasco, and Sabine Pass are objective points, if the force now in Texas can secure them. We shall all be put on our mettle during the spring. As we will be largely overmatched by each of these columns, unless we concentrate on one of them, it occurs to me that too much importance cannot be given to the object of roads and depots. Holding the country in the spring is simply a question of rapid marching. The radii from Holmes, Magruder, and myself, converging to some common center, should be put in the best order circumstances and our means admit, and there maintained by constant supervision. Competent officers charged entirely with this duty can secure this result. The facts reported above as to the enemy's force, present position, &c., are reliable. The speculations as to designs are entitled to such consideration as the lieutenant-general commanding may be pleased to give them.
Respectfully, your obedient servant,
HEADQUARTERS DISTRICT OF WEST LOUISIANA, Alexandria, January 16, 1864.
Colonel W. G. VINCENT,
Commanding Second Louisiana Cavalry:
COLONEL: I am instructed by the major-general commanding to state to you as follows: Information has been communicated to him that quite an extensive illegal traffic in cotton is carried on between the Bayou Courtableau and the enemy's lines at Plaquemine and other points, by persons who ship from various landings