HEADQUARTERS DISTRICT OF OREGON,
Fort Vancouver, Wash. Ter., December 14, 1863.
Honorable W. H. WALLACE,
Delegate from Idaho Territory:
SIR: I write this communication to recommend that a force be sent next spring from Missouri to occupy the Beaver Head, Big Hole, and Bitter Root county, in Idaho Territory. These settlements are near the base of the Rocky Mountains on each side. There is now a population of several thouand souls there, who areentitled to protection from the Indians. Rich gold mines in that regon are constantly being discovered, and the population will rapidly increase. This district embraces the region west of the Rocky Mountains. A portion of the force sent should occupy some point in the Bitter Root country, probably at the Flathead Indian Agency, which is now in my district, but the troops sent there should be in the same military department as the troops at Beaver Head and Fort Laramie, and therefore expressly exceptedin orders from my district. This force should be raised in some of the Northwestern States. Not a soldier can be spared from this quarter, for the force here is wholly inadequate and fast dwindling away by desertion and other causes. I think there should be sent about twelve or fifteen companies, two-thirds of them mounted and the remainder infantry companies. A base for their supplies can doubless be established at the had of steam-boat navigation on the Yellwstone. You inform me that Mr. Chouteau, of Saint Louis, states that they can get to the Big Elbow, on the Yellowstone. There an infantry force sent on steamers should establish a depot. I suppose that the main force should be established not far from East Bannock or Virginia City, near the eastern base of the Rocky Mountains. This would probably be not more than 100 miles from the head of navigation on the Yellowstone or on the Missouri. An experienced assistant quartermaster should be detailed for the expedition, who would make careful estimates of such supplies as would go from Sain Louis by steam-boats. He should make a full estimate for a year's supply of everything needed for such a command and for building the posts. I believe that it is the true policy of our Government, as stated by President Lincoln in his message of December, 1862, to encourage the speedy settlement and the discovery of the precious metals in the Territories. It is in every sense an important military policy, as a chain of settlements to the Pacific coast may contribute essentially to its successful defense in time of foregin war. I wish you, Governor, the utmost success in obtaining this aid from the Government for the immense and attractive Territory you represent. You have my permission to show this letter to the War Department if you should wish to do so in furtherance of these objects. Since writing the above I perceive in the papers the annexed telegram* of 6th of December, from Washington, showing that the Crow and probably other Indians will give trouble on the Yellowstone. This confirms the importance of the measures herein recommended.
I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Brigadier-General, U. S. Volunteers, Commanding District.