Already distributed to provost-marshals and rendezvous
outfits for ............................................ 150,000
Quantity on hand, exclusive of that in large field de-
pots ................................................... 200,000
Quantity to be provided ................................ 150,000
I have no doubt the department will be able to provide the quantity stated.
I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
M. C. MEIGS,
NEW ORLEANS, February 2, 1864.
SIR: An increase of business men from the North and West in New Orleans and the accumulation of funds make it impossible to resist the pressure in favor of opening trade with the people beyond the lines of the army. If it is refused, as it steadily has been by me, the profits of an illicit commercial intercourse are so gigantic that it is almost impossible to prevent the subornation or subordinate officers. So long as the unauthorized trade continues it will be managed according to the interests of those engaged in it, and the result is that querrillas and small detachments of rebel troops on the east bank of the river receive their supplies, not only of clothing, but of equipments and arms, from persons doing business in New Orleans, who are stimulated and are enabled to transact their business through the numerous profits attending the change of these products for cotton with the agents of the enemy. I am satisfied that if the blockade upon the west bank of the river could be made completely effective the rebel army would be in a great measure compelled to abandon the coast and a greater part of Louisiana and Texas within a short time. I believe the time has come when the Government will be compelled to establish some regulations controlling this trade.
There are two principles which must be established in any trade regulations. The first is that private parties should not be allowed to appropriate rebel property to their own use. The property of the rebel Government, as far as possible, should be applied to the payment of the expenses of the war. The second is that no property in considerable amount should be allowed to pass through the port of New Orleans with the consent of the Government officers, unless there is sufficient guarantee that it could not be used for the purchase in Europe of rams or other vessels to prey upon and destroy American commerce; otherwise, when indemnity shall be demanded, it will be answered that tls passed through the hands of the Government with the knowledge of its officers. I have myself never consented to any commerce of this kind, but have recommended always to the Government to take a guarantee for security against possible wrong.
There are in the State of Louisiana about 105,000 bales of cotton belonging to the rebel Government, for which it has title papers from the private owners. In Arkansas and Texas there is probably as much more, making at least 200,000 bales of cotton, the exclusive property of the rebel Government.
The state of the rebellion and the impoverished condition of its officers west of the Mississippi is such that they are willing to take measures for the preservation of this cotton wherever it may be found, and allow it to be taken and sold by the officers of the Govern