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SELECTED LETTERS OF SALMON P. CHASE
NEW ORLEANS, November 28th, 1862.
DEAR SIR: I have frequently conversed with Gen'l. Butler about an expedition to Texas, and since it was known here that Gen. Banks was to command the expedition, I have had two or three conversations with him. The General evidently expected that this expedition would be under his command, and now thinks that Gen. Banks should report to him and act under his orders—for the following reasons.
1st. Because Ship Island is an inconvenient and, for shipping, a dangerous rendezvous. Most of the Steam vessels from New York would be unable to enter the Texas harbors. Gen. Butler would put the troops on board his own light draught steamers, and wait just in the mouth of the river until fair weather permitted him to run to Galveston in 48 hours. The troops from the sailing vessels could be landed here and the vessels return home, thus saving expense, while a few trips of the General's steamers would convey all the troops to the Texas coast.
2nd. Gen. Butler's troops
are acclimated - well disciplined - have all been under fire, and the weak and sickly have all been weeded out. Gen. Banks troops will be new and undisciplined, etc. Gen. Butler would retain the new troops here and send to Texas an equal number of his veterans, who would form a far more effective force than new troops and not liable to be weakened by sickness.
3rd. A large army could be accommodated in the City with greater ease and comfort than upon Ship Island.
4th. This point is the most convenient depot for supplying Quartermaster and Commissary's stores to Gen. Banks in Texas, and beef and other supplies to be obtained in Texas are most needed here.
When the rebel army retreats from Vicksburg and Port Hudson, they may go west to Texas and crush Gen. Banks' force. This can be prevented by cooperating from this point and cutting them off by taking Shreveport (on Red River) - and this co-operation can be efficient only by unity of counsel and command.
General has prepared four or five iron-clad gunboats, - the only strong boats on the Gulf coast, capable of
operating advantageously in the shallow bays and bayous of Texas.
Such are the reasons I have
collected why Gen. Butler should have command, or rather, why Gen.
Banks should report to him. These reasons come from Gen. Butler
himself. Perhaps others could be given, and perhaps these already
stated are not weighty. I thought it proper, at any rate, to state
them to you. Gen. Butler says the above plan would advance the
expedition thirty days. Of course, I am ignorant of Gen. Banks' plan
of operations. Intelligent Texans now here, think the capture of the
town of Houston should be the first object. This is the center of
railroads and (they say) the controlling position (in military
sense) of the state. The slave population is large in that part of
the state, and if properly
employed, would prove a source of great weakness to the Rebels.
P. S. I do not know whether Gen. Butler or Gen. Banks is the ranking officer. I have written this letter only that you might be informed of Gen. Butler's opinions. He will soon send troops to Galveston.
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