Texas. Early in September the enemy assembled a heavy force at Berwick Bay, and on the 16th of that month crossed to the west side and advanced up the Teche. Under this condition of things it was an impossibility, as it would have been impolitic, to assemble a force of laborers either on the Ouachita or lower Red River.
Feeling the importance of the subject, and sharing the anxiety of the lieutenant-general commanding, as expressed in frequent communications, I kept open constant correspondence with the committee organized by act of the Legislature to call out negroes for defensive works. It was urged that 1,000 negroes should be held in readiness to respond to my call; that all arrangements should be made in advance, so that no time would be lost in assembling the negroes and placing them at work. The committee anticipated no difficulty, but represented the planters as most anxious to begin the work; so did private letters from the planters to me. Immediately, after the action of the 3rd of November, which first decided the question that we could safely operate on the lower Red River, negroes were called out and every step taken to secure vigorous progress. About one-half of the force called for was obtained, and that after much delay, notwithstanding the patriotic exertions of the gentlemen composing the committee above mentioned.
The force received was very destitute of tools, which also operated to delay the work. These facts were mentioned in several communications to department headquarters. As fast as difficulties arose every effort was made here to obviate them. I think it extremely unfortunate that Major Douglas was not directed to remain here. The importance of the lower river cannot be overestimated. For the future it is to be hoped the necessities of the service will not take him away until both the Ouachita and Red are fortified.
The communication of the lieutenant-general commanding, on the 17th instant, inclosing Major Douglas' letter of the 15th, has this moment reached me. The portion of the letter which states that Major Douglas, "as chief engineer, will be held responsible for the character of the works erected" puts me in a position which will certainly prevent me from any interference with him in the future. Every possible assistance will be afforded the engineer department in constructing such works as may be undertaken.
I earnestly hope that the falling rivers may afford time to complete the work at De Russy. No effort shall be spared to meet the demands of the engineer department. Most of the difficulties mentioned above have been beyond our control, and something can perhaps be charged to my unfortunate misapprehension of my duty. Energy will repair much, and shall not be wanting.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
[Inclosure No. 1.] FORT DE RUSSY, January 17, 1864.
Commanding District of Louisiana:
GENERAL: Nothing of interest has transpired here since my last letter. The 9-inch and 32-pounder are both in position. The rain this evening prevented their being fired. The carriage of the 32-pounder is not good. It is the carriage of a 24-pounder, and is con-