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SELECTED LETTERS OF SALMON P. CHASE

(Private)

NEW ORLEANS, December 25th, 1862.

DEAR SIR: The mail has just arrived and I see that, among other charges, Gen. Butler is accused of interfering in various ways with the Custom House, to the great injury of commerce.
Gen. Butler has interfered with the Custom House in four instances, but not more.
1st. He ordered me not to permit the shipment of specie and plate, without his written consent to each shipment. His object was to prevent property liable to confiscation, being removed from the country. The Prussian Bark, "Essex," had received on board several large cases of silver - and by Gen. Butler's orders, I refused a clearance until these cases were delivered up. They were delivered up, and clearance was then granted.
2nd. Gen. B. took possession of about $2,000. worth of printer's paper in the warehouse, for his official newspaper, "The Delta " - on the ground that it was a military necessity.
3rd. He took possession of forty barrels of brandy (imported two or three years ago) for hospital purposes - as a military necessity.
4th. He took possession of ten bales of blankets for hospital purpose, as a military necessity.
In each of the last three instances, I have his written order to deliver up the articles to the officer presenting the order - and in each he settled, I suppose, with the owners of the articles. Except in the above instances, Gen. Butler has not interfered with the Custom House business. I make this statement for your information.
I send you a paper containing Gen. Butler's farewell address, and Gen. Banks' proclamation concerning the Emancipation Proclamation. Each article explains itself. From appearances, I judge that Gen. Butler intends to join the extreme radicals, as the Democratic papers term the only party which (as it seems to me) appreciates the position. The Texas men are bitterly disappointed that they cannot invade Texas at once, and think great injustice has been done them. It seems to me that the thorough opening of the river is of most consequence just now - after which the whole Southwest falls easily. Texas, Louisiana and Arkansas are pretty well drained of men, but full of corn and cattle. The Rebels would like to retreat thither, but if the river is opened at once, they will be forced back toward, or into, Alabama. With the loss of the Three Southwestern states, the rebels lose one-half their material resources. They could not break through the line of defence (Mississippi River) to recover it. In no other way can the Confederate cause be so much injured, with so little expenditure on the part of the Gov't. of men, time and money. The Arkansas, White and Red Rivers and, in Louisiana, various bayous, enable Gunboats to penetrate in all directions to the heart of the country. Fifty thousand men, together with the Union forces now in Arkansas and at El Paso (Texas), would be fully able to accomplish this in two or three months, after the opening of the river - and provided Emancipation attended the march, success would be absolutely certain. Louisiana is virtually subdued already and wishes herself back in the Union. I hope Gen. Banks will adopt some such plan as the above and have told him so. Lest he might mistake my political position, I took the first opportunity to tell him also, what my opinions were, particularly in regard to Slavery.
According to the best information I can get - the rebels have at Vicksburg 12,000 men - at Jackson (and Grenada), 40,000 - & at Port Hudson, 20,000. The men are said to be deserting very fast. Port Hudson is twenty miles above Baton Rouge and is said to be much stronger than Vicksburg. Many believe that to be the point (instead of Vicksburg) where the great fight will be.
Our troops are moving up to Baton Rouge, where perhaps 20,000 have already arrived. All the old (Butler's) regiments will probably be sent up. I should judge that the attack on Port Hudson would take place in about ten days. Gen. Banks is expected to command in person.
Mobile is not fortified with such strength as is represented by Southern accounts. The Rebel gunboats there are of very little account. I have just seen a reliable (white) man who escaped from there five weeks ago. Admiral Farragut can take the place whenever he chooses.
Please do not authorize more officers for the Appraiser's Department, to be sent here from New York. One, Mr. Paulson, appointed by your order, has just arrived. He is one too much. I understand still another is to come. I want to keep down expenses, and this expense is entirely unnecessary. Mr. Sarjeant did wrong in making such representations as he did to you, concerning the want of Examiners here.

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Annual Report of the American Historical Association; Volume II; Washington, Government Printing Office; 1903

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