fine fellow; he told General Smith in my presence that, though a Texan, he thought all impressments for this army should be made rather in Texas than here or in Louisiana. General Smith promised me he would impress horses there, but told me to impress negroes here. I regret, though, to do anything which seems unpleasant to him for he is a perfect gentleman and soldier, but I cannot agree with him in this. I am told that over 150,000 negroes have gone from Missouri and Arkansas into Texas, and leaving out all considerations of fairness, I fear that if the few that remain here are impressed, those who would otherwise sow and plant would emigrate to Texas, and through the depopulation of the country we should not be able to support an army through another season, though otherwise successful. I recommended to General Smith that a certain number of counties should be attached to Arkansas from Texas, for this purpose, say two tiers from Harrison County to the Indian Territory, as I understand he has impressed negroes to work upon the fortifications at Marshall and Shreveport. I presume my proposition embarrassed him, as those from whom he had impressed did not expect other impressments. As we occupy at present but a small portion of Arkansas, I think the difficulty might be obviated by attaching a considerable portion of [the] eastern part of the Northern Sub-District of Texas to Arkansas. The suggestion came from your brother, Colonel Richard Johnson, and I think it a good one. I am told there are many negroes in the counties bordering on the Indian Territory. For all military commands the Northern Sub-District might remain as it is, but this is purely of an administrative nature.
I am the only officer I know of in the Trans-Mississippi Department who causes his troops to labor on the fortifications. Major W. W. Johnson, chief of Labor Bureau, informs me that under the late act only eight-five negroes can be obtained in the District of Arkansas. General Smith says these are conscripts, under the law, enrolled for the war, and that I can impress (if I understood him correctly) as many slaves as I like under former laws. I have not these laws before me, but if my memory serves me rightly he is mistaken. At all events the effect on the people would be the same; this I wish to avoid. I think the campaign of last spring will be re-enacted next spring, and if Price returns in safety, and we make every preparation in our power, I think we shall have a better prospect of success than heretofore. I hope, therefore, you will not think of removing your family from the State, since your example would doubtless be followed by many others. Mrs. Wright informs me she has two plantations and has not removed her negroes only should it become necessary. You, I understand, have only your family to move, and should you go to Congress it would afford me great pleasure to give them all the assistance in my power. I should of course be too much engaged myself, but would send some other person whom they might designate to accompany them. Please present my kindest regards to them all.
Would it not be well to represent your views, which I am sure will accord with mine, as to the impolicy of impressing negroes in Arkansas to General Smith, this being purely a civil matter. My judgment tells me the negroes are absolutely necessary. The various crossings of the Little Missouri should be fortified at once, and perhaps one or two other points on the Ouachita River, and certainly Fulton and Dooley's Ferry. I have no troops stationed at either of these places, and therefore cannot resort even to the labor of the soldiers.