February 7, 1864, Fort
Towson, Choctaw Nation
Brigadier General S. B. Maxey to Colonel S. S. Anderson
HEADQUARTERS DISTRICT OF INDIAN TERRITORY,
Fort Towson, Choctaw Nation, February 7, 1864.
Col. S.S. ANDERSON,
COLONEL: I yesterday returned from the grand council of the Indian tribes, in session at Armstrong Academy, about fifty-five miles northwest from here. The session was well attended and will be harmonious, and I think its action will be patriotic. I gave them a talk by special invitation day before yesterday. Colonel Watie has returned from his raid through the Creek and Cherokee Nations. Although he was unable to effect as much as he expected on account of the inclement weather, in all of which he was, still his move has done good. I wish I had as much energy in some of my white commanders as he displays. He is now gathering his command at Carriage Point, in vicinity of Fort Washita. I inclose a note handed me by Colonel Adair, of the Second Cherokee Regiment, who had been requested by Colonel Watie to see me on the subject therein referred to. The move strikes me favorably. Made a little before a move of the rest of the command north toward the Divide (toward Holston's, a point heretofore described as convenient to Fort Smith, Waldron, and the forks of the road from Forts Gibson and Smith to Preston, Tex.), it would be a good diversion in favor of any move that might present itself as profitable from that point. As to the general move I thought it necessary to make, I refer you to former letters. I inclose letters received from Col. S. A. Roberts, of Bonham, Tex., disclosing the plan of a young man in whom he has confidence. This move, of course, would be to the left of Watie, and on the extreme left of the line. It is an enterprise that might be productive of good, and undoubtedly would be if he can destroy the Pike's Peak nest and bring out 300 or 400 good men. I regard all moves of that kind as side issues, and will do well enough when they are conducted by men that can very well be spared, but are not profitable to bank good men on. I know of but one command in the Confederate service eminently qualified for this work. Quantrill and his men would exactly do, and if you have nothing else for them to do better they might very well be put to work at this. I inclose a note from Maj. I. G. Vore, quartermaster, Cooper's division, and Creek agent, which explains itself. The real design of this move is not far from Watie's.
Believing it my duty to do everything in my power to encourage these people, who, from the present signs, will have to depend on themselves, I shall give them as much beef as is necessary. So much for the Indian part of my command. I have made the best disposition for the indigent Indians the circumstances will admit. What little white force I have, which is scarcely worth talking about, is, so far as Gano's brigade is concerned, in a deplorable condition. They seem (most of them) to be utterly demoralized. Desertions are by wholesale, and, judging from my letters from there, the concern seems panic-stricken or worse. The elegant example of twenty-five desertions from Hardeman's regiment was magnificently eclipsed by about 200 from De Morse's regiment a very few days after. Excelsior. The only regiment of the three in the brigade which has stood good to its colors is Gurley's, now and for a considerable time past commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Battle, who has sacrificed his personal popularity for the sake of his country. I inclose his letter asking to be relieved from duty with the regiment. I know nothing of Colonel Gurley, only so far as the records disclose the difficulty between himself and Colonel Bankhead. I can say of Lieutenant-Colonel Battle that the reports of my inspector general and chief of ordnance speak in the highest terms of this regiment and its management. If Colonel Gurley returns I see nothing to prevent a re-enactment of the Bankhead and Gurley difficulty (in the case of Gano and Gurley); and if so, away goes that regiment. The chief of ordnance reports a great lack of guns in that brigade. I think those who yet remain would use them, and I would like to give them a chance. I never fully appreciated General Scott's remark on being ordered to Mexico till now. The best regiment I have is in rear on conscript duty, and in addition I have recently sent two companies after deserters, one as far down as Caldwell County, the other out to Denton, where it may take up its abode in the brush. Martin is a good officer--too good to be in that business. I have frequently asked for him, because I know the necessity of it. I get no reply. It seems to me that the militia might do this work. Gano's brigade is so greatly reduced (always small) that it could not stand against a serious attack, and if it gives way the Line road is open. These things are of too serious moment to admit of delay. Walker's brigade of Indians cannot be moved from here without exposing this route and all the supplies collected. For the same reason Watie's cannot be moved. The commissary has succeeded in collecting a valuable quantity of supplies, including a large amount of pork, at Boggy Depot. The force there (Bass' remnant of a regiment) is altogether too small to guard it, and yet I have no force to send. De Morse asks to cross his brigade to the south bank of Red River, representing it as wholly inadequate to hold its position if attacked; the camp miserable, &c. I have declined, and told him if his ground is not good to move forward and get better. A retrograde move for any cause across the river would be attended with disastrous consequences too plain to argue to a military man. Abandon this country, and the Indians abandon the service. They are under no obligations by their treaty to leave their Territory. Once they leave us and they are against us. Brigade after brigade may be piled up elsewhere. The best place to enter is as good as they (the Yankees) want. A Greek warrior of the times of mythology was said to have had but a single vulnerable part. That was found and finished his case.
The gathering up of conscripts in Texas is certainly very important; keeping Yankees out of Texas more so. Hence I again ask, whilst there is time, that Martin's regiment be sent here. I am satisfied if I could possess the lieutenant-general commanding of the real state of affairs and the importance of aid here, he would at once send that and others if he can spare. I shall kick hard against the fate of my predecessors, but stare decisis is a hard old rule; the precedents are against me. I intend to point out my wants in the hope that something may turn up. Give me even a decent-sized white force, and I will hold my position as long as a man will stand. I know the Indian character. Despondency with them is followed by despair. I was informed by the lieutenant-general commanding that this had proved the pons asinorum of generals. He has sent me to the blackboard, and hasn't so much as allowed me a piece of chalk to work with; only keel. Do not understand me as complaining. I see my inevitable fate if I fail to hold this country, and I most sincerely trust that some means will be allowed. I have pictured out my campaign, the outlines of which I have now and heretofore furnished. I hope to have means to make it. I know perfectly well that he is straining every nerve for the good of the country. I think I have a fair knowledge of the resources of the various parts of the Trans-Mississippi Department. Unless I am greatly deceived, the possession of this country and Northern Texas would be the most serious blow the enemy has ever struck this department. I hope, therefore, he will understand that I am thus urgent from the intense anxiety I have to sustain my position. I send you the following latest news from Fort Smith, Van Buren, Fort Gibson, and Waldron, which I deem reliable:
About three weeks ago Blunt and McNeil both left Fort Smith for Washington. Colonel Cloud now commands at Fort Smith. Six regiments there, viz, two Kansas--one cavalry (Fourteenth), one infantry--one Iowa cavalry (Eighteenth [sic.]), one negro regiment (not full), two others (not known where from); sixteen pieces artillery, viz, six mountain howitzers, four siege guns (32 or 42 pounders, from description); the remaining six 4, 6, and 12 pounders, brass. Have been issuing quarter rations for two months; poor beef, hard bread, and no salt. They get rations from Little Rock now; heretofore from Fort Scott till Watie's last raid through the Cherokee country. One regiment infantry and one of Kansas cavalry left for Little Rock during the snow. Took no train but baggage train. Was said they were sent to escort trains up. One company Choctaws, Capt. Jere Ward, does principal scouting. River very low and falling; not more than knee-deep where my informants crossed last Friday night; was a week ago below Van Buren, at Major Rector's place. Are fortifying at Nigger Hill, half a mile southwest from Old Fort, on Sulphur Springs road. Have just commenced work; plan on a large scale; were throwing up breastworks on the road to Van Buren, half a mile from town (Fort Smith), in the edge of the prairie. Works about a mile long (ditch on both sides), curving with prairie. East side, next Major Rector's (or race track), not fortified; only fortified above and below. Worked negro battalion and all other negro men. Great many negro men there. As soon as grass gets up say they are going to strike out toward Boggy Depot. Eavesdropped some of the officers (captains and majors) and heard them talk. Telegraph wires up to Saint Louis and Little Rock. Yanks are frequently deceived by our men (bushwhackers), who come in and join and get guns, &c., and leave. One Arkansas regiment raised there since Yanks got there. No pickets out at Fort Smith; bushwhackers scared them in. None but infantry pickets at Van Buren, one-quarter of a mile out. Some political troubles amongst themselves, and some Copperheads sympathize with us. Men don't like McNeil; say he is a tyrant. Cavalry only go out foraging. Forage very scarce. Have to go out toward Fayetteville and down toward Clarksville for forage. Regiments not full, ranging from 200 to 500. Time of many nearly out. One regiment, new (Fourteenth Kansas), is larger; numbers near 800. A good deal of sickness--chills and fever, pneumonia, some frostbitten; one whole regiment vaccinated one day with bad vaccine matter; a good many died; they are not well yet. Some had to have arms amputated. Fort Smith and Van Buren full of sutlers' goods. Not many Indians trade with them. Sutlers' trains from Springfield via Fayetteville without escorts. Mail to Fayetteville and Little Rock goes out Wednesdays and Fridays without guard. Indians, since snow, have been from Fort Gibson to Ray's Mills and Cane Hill, Washington County, Ark. Are about 1,200 strong, mounted. A good many Pins died during cold weather. I have their camp-grounds. McNeil has offered condemned horses to farmers to make crops; don't take stock. But little preparation to raise crops; very little wheat sown. Phillips commands the Indians. Two regiments at Van Buren, Third Wisconsin Cavalry (Major Schroeling), Thirteenth Kansas Infantry (Colonel Bowen); one battery, six pieces (from description Napoleons), two mountain howitzers. The 12-pounders have been condemned and are to be taken to Saint Louis and exchanged. One regiment Arkansas infantry at Clarksville, and one company cavalry; a negro regiment at McLean's Bottom, eight or ten miles below Clarksville. At Waldron their force in December was believed 500 and two pieces artillery. Have some negro troops at Dardanelle making salt. Infantry armed with Enfield rifles, negroes well as white; cavalry, Sharps carbine, six-shooter, and saber; horses are very poor. As this, when it touches other sources, agrees, and as, from a thorough personal examination under the rule of the two, I found their reports to agree, and as I believe my informants are first-rate Southern men and had the best means of knowing that of which they speak, I give it as reliable.
Respectfully: your obedient servant,
S. B. MAXEY,
If our Arkansas cavalry can't profit by this it is no use sending. This is fresh from first hands, who left last Friday night was a week ago, one of them using for convenience the provost-marshal's horse.
S. B. M.
By an order dated 21st ultimo, Maj. James Burnet's battalion of sharpshooters is ordered to report to me. A portion of that command is without guns. It has not yet been officially reported. I desire to send it at once to Boggy Depot, the point, you will observe, where my bacon is being made, and the point, as you will see by information now sent, is spoken of as the one the Yankees will make for when grass rises. It should be prepared for action.
S. B. M.
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