War of the Rebellion: Serial 127 Page 0876 CORRESPONDENCE, ETC.

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generals. It is so difficult to control commissaries who are under the special orders of such officers that it has not been attempted except when deemed advisable in special cases, and it has been compelled to let these purchases rest upon the administrative responsibility of the commanders. All that has been done in such cases has been to approve the contracts made by such commissaries as have submitted them to this department. As in some cases this has not bee done, and the purchases made have only appeared through returns of commissaries to this office, a statement of such contracts as have been submitted is not given, since in might mislead as to the quantities of provisions that have been or are being purchased. But where the commands had to be supplied from a distance, or where, from the vast size of the force or the probable conflict or purchase among the commissaries of different commands, difficulties might arise, a different course has been pursued; officers or agents of the department have been appointed or detailed, and they have been instructed to furnish by direct purchase and through such sub-agencies as they deem necessary, in districts geographically prescribed and where they were the sole purchasers, the proper number of beef-cattle at their appointed depots. General instructions have been given to all these parties to discourage speculation by refusing to buy at second-hand whenever practicable, but not minute instructions were necessary in these cases from the character of the officers and agents and their thorough acquaintance with their duties. Wherever that has been done the price of cattle has been kept at a moderate rate and arrangements have been made with more or less completeness and celerity, as the exigencies of the case or of public business would permit to save to the Government all or a very large share of the profits of the fifth quarter. The prices in these cases have varied from 3 to 4 1/2 cents per pound gross. The agents thus specially employed are Major B. P. Noland, of Loudoun, for the district that feeds Manassas and Fredericksburg; Mr. William M. Tate, of Augusta, for the district that feeds Richmond and the Peninsula; Mr. C. L. Snyder, of Roanoke County, commissary agent, and Mr. T. J. Higginbotham, of Tazewell County, for Southwestern Virginia; Mr. William Falconer, of Petersburg, for Norfolk City, and Mr. R. T. Wilson, of Loudoun, Tenn. In one or more cases some of these gentlemen have found it necessary to employ sub-agents.


Want of money has prevented such contracts for flour as would have secured contracts for the whole year when wheat was low. In the absence of funds it was necessary to attempt some plan by which, after supplying its immediate wants, the department might regulate its future prices. All that it could do in that direction has been to adopt a system by which its purchases could be arranged for present and future supply on a basis which would be safe for the Government and ought to be satisfactory to the seller. That basis was simply the application of the universally accepted commercial law that the price of any article not at a ruling market must be the price of that market less cost and charges. As our ports were all blockaded different flour marts were assumed as the points of sale and the deduction scaled by the distance of the seller from his usual market, and all such markets were generously put upon the footing of the best, though there had always been a very considerable difference among them. In addition