from your command reflects most seriously on you conduct as commanding the brigade, and will subject you and every officer in any way responsible for this violation of discipline to the most strict accountability. You will report at once what steps were taken by you to prevent it, the names and residences of the deserters, the company to which they belong, and whit steps were taken by their company and regimental officers to prevent it.
You will detail reliable officers from such companies as my not have lost men by this desertion, and send them to each locality where the deserters live, taking with them a proper guard, not to exceed 10 men each, with orders to arrest these men and return them to camp; or if in your judgement it would be better you will organize, under the command of a field officer not responsible for this act, an expedition to proceed to the locality to which these men belong and there institute such measures as will best insure their arrest. They will be authorized to call on the minute and local companies of the respective counties, the military commanders of troops stationed in the vicinity, and the citizens generally to aid in this work.
It is impossible for me to give explicit instructions when I am ignorant of the residence of the deserters, but notwithstanding the great injury to the service which will ensue from the absence of soldiers in the emergency, it is of more importance that these men shall be brought back than any other consideration. You will regulate the strength of the detail by the probable assistance that it will received from the organizations alluded of; for instance, if the most of the men live in Guadalupe County, you will know the available force of the minute and other organizations which may be depended upon, and so arrange the detail that the least possible injury may result to the service, and yet accomplish the work.
Lieutenant General E. K. Smith is expected here on the 5th instant, and your command must be in its camp on Cedar Bayou by that time.
Respectfully, your obedient servant,
H. P. BEE,
ALEXANDRIA, LA., February 3, 1864.
GENERAL: I beg leave to acknowledge the receipt of your communication of the 2nd instant. Your modifications of the orders said to have been issued will, I trust, prevent any hardship. I mentioned on yesterday that I supposed negroes could be had with the consent of their owners. The Government will pay the monthly hire, and assume all the responsibility which the laws of the State entail on hires of slaves. If we cannot obtain the consent of owners, better do without the negroes. Otherwise, as you observe, there will be a general stampede, and we will be held to be the cause of it. Along the banks of the Mississippi negroes are worthless as property, and I suppose their nominal owners would be glad to place them in Government service, if the necessary means to remove the negroes could be secured.
No permission to trade can be given; it is against an act of Congress to send cotton and some other specified articles to the enemy.