bales, would comprise an aggregate of 79,000. This estimate is, if anything, below the amount of cotton in the district, and I feel satisfied is not in excess, unless I am very greatly mistaken. All the cotton on the Tensas, and nearly all on the Bayou Macon, has been burned or otherwise destroyed. As to my opinion of the disposition which should be made of the cotton, I beg leave to submit to you to substance of a proposition I made a few days since to Lieutenant-Colonel Broadwell on this subject, in reply to a letter from him inviting my views, to wit: If the department necessities are of such an imperative nature as to require a revenue from this cotton, at the hazard of passing it through the enemy's lines, with his consent, thus departing from the original intentions of the Government in burning or destroying it rather than the enemy should get a bale, I would respectfully suggest that the department should not purchase or impress a single pound, but instead thereof impose an export tax of 20 cents per pound, to be paid in gold or sterling exchange, upon every bale that passed down the Ouachita River, permitting certain designated forcing parties only to purchase cotton, and limiting the business to the Ouachita River, within our own lines, under our own supervision and restrictions, and under our own guns, thereby keeping the entire control of the trade and stopping it at any moment deemed advisable by the department or district. All owners of cotton who do not avail themselves of this chance or privilege of selling to parties named by the department or district will have their cotton liable to be burned, which will have the effect to bring all concealed cotton to light, thus disposing of the whole amount east of the Ouachita, and leaving the people no other care than that of cultivating their corn crops and providing for their families. This course will content all parties interested and place actually in the hands of the Government all the funds needed, without purchase or impressment or any further trouble or expense than that of collecting the revenue or tax in the shipment of the cotton by the fortifications at Harrisonburg, or whatever point deemed suitable, on the Ouachita or Red River.
Meanwhile should any expedition or raid be made upon the country, it will not prevent the burning of the cotton which remained before an advance of the enemy; or, in other words, the department would be under no obligation or restraint not to burn or destroy all the cotton threatened that has not passed beyond the fortifications, for which it will have been paid. These are the views I entertain as to the disposition of the cotton under the circumstances, and I only now have to ask the favorable consideration of the major-general commanding to the following modification of his instructions:
That when an order is issued to burn the cotton, before an advance of the enemy, it may be so shaped that one-tenth of the seed cotton particularly may be left to the families of the owners who are compelled from necessity to remain within the enemy's lines, or who are unable to move away as our forces recede. Many of these people are the mothers, wives, and sisters of the soldiers of the Virginia and Tennessee armies, who, amid so much private distress, deserve this much kindness and consideration at our hands. God will not forget us for so doing.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
ST. JOHN R. LIDDELL,