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SELECTED LETTERS TO SALMON P. CHASE
NEW YORK, May 1862.
SIR: You desired me to put in
writing the statements made to you by me while in Washington. In compliance with that request I have the honor to submit the following. The printed portions were written by myself.
A very large portion of the population of Western Texas continue loyal. In Austin (the Capital) three-fourths of the residents are loyal, and dare express their sentiments openly. In most other places any expression of opinion favorable to the Government is not tolerated. The Germans can be relied on almost without exception.
important that Western Texas should be made a Free State, and it can
be accomplished. It is important because, thereby, the Slave States
will be surrounded by the Free, and the slave power be rendered
incapable of extension. They now hope to acquire some portion of
Mexico for slavery, and while they hold Western Texas, will not
cease to strive for that end. Hence, from its geographical position,
Western Texas, is more important (with respect to slavery) than any
other portion of the United States. It is very healthy, adapted to
white labor, and but few slaves are there. In most portions of that
country slave labor is not profitable, and, among others, the
Germans are well known to be opposed to it. Among the leading Union
men are Ex-Governor Pease, Judge Norton (editor of the
Intelligencer) A. J. Hamilton (former member of Congress) and Judge
Paschal - all of Austin. I cannot say whether they desire a Free
State, but most Texas loyalists would do anything for the sake of
the Union. Mr. Charles Anderson is perhaps the best man the
Government could select for a high civil
position. He is well known there, is popular, able, eloquent and fearless, and his recent persecution by the rebel authorities enlisted the sympathy of all Union men, .and of some others.
Col. Bomford was made prisoner of war by Gen. Twigg's surrender. He has been exchanged and is assigned to the 16th. regiment of Regular infantry - is a graduate of West
Point - was distinguished in Mexico - has been stationed several years in Texas, and, I understand, has recently been highly recommended by Gen. Scott for an appointment of Brigadier. He is a fine officer, and thoroughly familiar with Western Texas, its resources, forts, road, etc., the character of the people and their method of fighting.
contained about Twenty seven Hundred men, and went to New Mexico. There were some respectable men in it, but most were ruffians and desperadoes, and all would fight well. Most of them were armed each with a double-barrel shot-gun and navy revolver, though some had minie muskets (stolen from U. S.) or common rifles, and four companies had nothing but unwieldy lances. For artillery they had nine mountain howitzers. These were all mounted men, and were joined in Arizona by Col. Baylor's regiment numbering seven hundred, and provided with other artillery (ordinary brass field pieces). I should think there were in February last, about 1,000 men at the various forts in the Indian country, some or all of whom, I understood were to be sent on to reinforce Sibley. The colonels of the regiments serving under Sibley are Riley (formerly of Ohio) Green (formerly of Tennessee), Steele (formerly Capt. U. S. Army), and Baylor. They were insufficiently supplied with provisions - nor did they have sufficient ammunition for so long an expedition. I have frequently seen
Sibley's Brigade, and what I say about it, is reliable.
In February last, there were about
Seven Thousand men around and between Galveston and Houston.
Fortifications (field works) were prepared near Galveston, and they
had considerable artillery there, including a few siege guns said to
have been brought from New Orleans. There had already been sent out
of the State (as I was informed
) Thirteen to Fifteen Thousand men besides Sibley's Brigade. I was told by a Rebel officer that Thirty Two Thousand men were then under arms in Texas, including troops at Galveston, Houston and Brownsville. I think his statement greatly exaggerated, though he included all the home-guards, organized militia, etc., most of whom are poorly armed.
There were at or near Brownsville eight or nine hundred men. Fort Brown is near the town and contains eighteen guns, as I am informed. They also have four or five mountain howitzers and at least one battery of field pieces. Matamoras is opposite Brownsville, and the Rebels have ornanized quite an extensive trade there. Vessels sail for Matamoras and land their cargoes at Brownsville. These two towns are twenty or twenty-five miles from the mouth of the Rio Grande. Large amounts of coffee have been imported from Mexico through Brownsville and sent to Eastern Texas and Louisiana. Many officers of the regular army have heretofore been stationed at Fort Brown and know all about it. It is said not to have been much strengthened by the rebels.
Mr. George Giddings of
San Antonio was proprietor of the San Antonio and San Diego overland mail line. Early last winter be was appointed, by Jefferson Davis, agent to receive and collect all cotton contributed in the Southwest, for the Confederate government. It was said that he also received a large amount of Confederate money with which to buy cotton. It was said - and believed by all - that he was instructed to take all the cotton he could collect, through Brownsville to Matamoras or Tampico, and export it to Foreign countries, bringing back in exchange arms and munitions of war. I am unable to say whether the plan was relinquished subsequently to my leaving, but at that time he had a great number of Mexican carts in his employ, and almost all transportation there is done by these carts.
Corpus Christi is the healthiest place on the coast of Western Texas, and a majority of the inhabitants were for the Union. The harbor is not good, but troops can march from there to within thirty miles of San Antonio, and have good drinking water all the way - an important
consideration in that dry country. Officers of the regular army, familiar with Texas, can tell where.a landing should be made, much better than I can. It is important however, that an army once landed, should push forward rapidly so as to give protection to Union men who would otherwise be forced into the rebel army or massacred. Probably Twenty-five Thousand Federal troops could take and hold the whole State - certainly the Western portion. Col. Bomford thought fifteen Thousand could march even from Galveston to San Antonio, and garrison all important points on the road.
The Eastern part of the State, including Houston and Galveston, is Secession, though there are many Union men even there. I found Union men in all the states through which I passed, except Mississippi.
The want of arms is severely felt and this want is becomin greater rapidly. I do not think they have received from abroad more than one tenth, certaintly not more than one-fifth, of the arms which are reported to have been received. I refer to reports prevalent in the South, all of which may not have been heard of in the North. I never saw but one foreign musket in the hands of a Southern soldier.
The Southern leaders do not hesitate to make any statement which will encourage their own people.
The gentleman from Memphis referred to in the printed column was a Mr. Randolph, an East Tennessee Union man, who had been to Memphis to attend the Legislature, of which he was a member. He passed through Corinth about the twentieth of March, or a little later. At that time there were between Forty and Forty-Five Thousand rebel troops there. Reinforcements came in as fast as they could be raised. The battle of Shiloh was fought about sixteen days afterward. They might have received reinforcements at the rate of 2,000 per day, but I should not think they received more than one thousand per day. According to this estimate the rebel force in that battle was not far from Sixty Thousand.
About the first of April, the number of troops in East Tennessee, as well as I could judge, was not far from ten thousand, 'of whom between three and four thousand were
at Cumberland Gap, which is a position strong by nature and strongly fortified.
The gentleman referred to in the printed column is named McDowell, a nephew of Gen. Floyd and a relative of our Gen. McDowell. I knew him in Texas, and he is now an officer in the Rebel army. He said that immediately after Floyd ceased to be Secretary of War, a plantation with negroes in South Carolina, was purchased in Mrs. Floyd's name, and $700,000 in cash paid down for it.
The journey from
N. Orleans to Richmond occupied seven days. I was told by members of the Rebel Congress in Richmond - (among others, Col. Wilcox, formerly U. S. Congressman from Mississippi) - that they now expected the war would continue six or seven years longer. I have also heard military men there say the wine. Secretary Benjamin told me that the Federals arrested and put in prison every one who reached them from the South. In case their large armies are dispersed, their intention undoubtedly is, to adopt a general system of guerilla warfare, and thus wear out- their enemies, and make the Government weary of the war.
In the Gulf States East of the Mississippi river, it seemed to me that nearly every able bodied man had been sent to the war. In the State of Mississippi, but few men were to be seen in any of the villages through which I passed. It is necessary, however, in estimating the number of troops they can raise; to note the following facts.
1st. In the beginning of the war thousands left the South and came North. I estimate the number at not less than fifty Thousand men, nor more than 100,000.
2nd. The mortality by sickness in the Southern army has been great. In the last part of October I learned (indirectly) from an officer of high position, that Thirty Thousand southern soldiers had already died from sickness alone. Assuming this to be true, their whole loss from sickness up to the present ent time cannot be less than Sixty Thousand.
3rd. Thousands have returned home invalids, and will be of no further use during the war. I cannot estimate the number well, but should think that (including those disabled by wounds) it is at least 30,000 and probably twice as many.
4th. Their loss in killed, deserters and prisoners has been large. You can estimate this number better than I can.
The above statements only approximate to the truth. Throughout the South it is impossible to obtain any accurate information. Facts are suppressed for fear of discouraging the people now in rebellion.
seems to me that the rebels cannot raise many more men than they now have in the service. At any rate they would not be efficient, unless supplies of arms, etc. are received from abroad. It is the opinion of the Federal officers before-mentioned (Col. Bomford and others) that the United States needs more men in the field - at least 100,000 more.
The Yellow Fever generally
prevails in New Orleans about one year out of three. It can be
prevented by strict quarantine, though this fact is sometimes
disputed. The epidemic generally commences in the last part of
August (seldom before the 15th) and ends with the first frost, which
usually occurs in the first week of November. The number of
inhabitants remaining in the city during an epidemic is about Eighty
Thousand, and the number of deaths is usually about four thousand or
a little more. Sometimes (never except twice) the disease is very
malignant and does not yield to former remedies, as in 1853, when it
commenced in May and Thirteen Thousand died in the city during the
epidemic. With proper sanitary and hospital arrangements I should
estimate the number of the army who would escape the disease
entirely, at ten per cent. of the whole, and the number who would
die at not more than ten per cent. If there is no yellow
fever, they would probably be as healthy as Southern soldiers.
Probably ninety nine out of a hundred of the Southern army would
suffer as much from Yellow fever as our own soldiers, and they will
never undertake to occupy any place where the epidemic already
prevails. This disease is prevalent along the whole Gulf coast from
Key West to the Rio Grande, except the islands, the Texas Coast near
Corpus Christi and a few other localities. It extends far inland
where the country is slightly elevated above the sea, but never
prevails in Western
Texas except near the coast.
The Southern climate (near the Gulf) is far less healthy for armies than the Northern, but undoubtedly Federal armies will suffer from sickness no more and probably less, than Southern armies under the same circumstances. I am informed that this was true in the Mexican War. The second year is said to be more dangerous to Northern men than the first. They should be sent South in the Fall or Winter, and, during the hot season, sanitary precautions used, which all good physicians understand.
I think the South can be conquered without abolishing slavery in the Gulf States or elsewhere. To abolish it in the Gulf States would produce a unanimity among the people of those States which does not now exist. They all abhor the idea of the negroes being set free among them and (as they express it) made their equals. It is worth while to treat with conciliation and kindness those who are, or have been, Union men.
secessionists are a minority in every state except South Carolina, and perhaps Mississippi. Conciliation and kindness toward them is utterly thrown away. They expect and deserve the same treatment they have given Union men in their midst, and will fight to the last. But few of them will become good citizens again, and when subdued many of them will leave the country forever.
If Western Texas is to become a Free State, it must be before the close of this war. Eastern Texas is more populous and strongly pro-slavery, and will prevent any division of the state in time of peace.
With more time I could have made the foregoing statements more concise. I shall be gratified if they prove to be of any use.
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