The Arkansas in the Civil War Message Board

Intel report on Trans-Mississippi

HEADQUARTERS MILITARY DIVISION OF WEST MISSISSIPPI,
OFFICE OF CHIEF SIGNAL OFFICER,
New Orleans, La., February 2, 1865.

Lieut. Col. C. T. Christensen, Asst. Adjt. Gen., Military Division of West Mississippi.

Colonel—I have the honor to submit to your consideration the following report of information received at this office this 2d day of February, 1865: Mr. S. Armitage, scout, left New Orleans January 4, 1865; arrived at Alexandria January 9, at Shreveport January 11, at Jefferson January 14, and at Marshall January 16. Returned to Shreveport January 17; remained there four or five days, then returned to Alexandria about January 22, remained one day, then returned to New Orleans, via Marksville and Morganza. He makes the following statement: The department depot for provisions is at Jefferson; only a provost guard there. At Marshall there is a Government tannery, a shoe manufactory, a foundry for cannon shot and shell, a factory for percussion caps, a powder factory, and the headquarters of the Treasury Department for the Trans-Mississippi Department. Lead is brought to Marshall from Mexico. At Shreveport is a foundry for casting cannon shot and shell; also the depot of clothing, which is full of blankets, shoes, and other clothing for the Trans-Mississippi Department. All shoemakers and tailors are obliged to work there. A breast-work surrounds the city, with embrasures at intervals of 100 yards for guns. No guns are now mounted. No troops are there except a provost guard. General Kirby Smith’s headquarters are at Shreveport. At Minden, twenty-eight miles from Shreveport, were all the infantry except Magruder’s division, which was formerly commanded by Price. General Price is shelved. He lost 12,000 veterans, and brought back 10,000 raw recruits and conscripts from Missouri. He lost all his teams and much of his artillery there. Marmaduke’s division was at Little Prairie, eight miles from Washington, Ark., and 110 miles from Shreveport, numbering, all told, as infantry not over 18,000. At Minden, were Walker’s division, 6,000 to 7,000; Polignac’s division, 6,000 to 7,000; Cameron’s battery, six guns; Nims’ old battery, six guns. Several batteries have been ordered to Marshall to recruit their horses. All this infantry has been ordered to Alexandria. General Buckner (whose headquarters are at Natchitoches, 100 miles from Alexandria) came down to Alexandria with informant upon business relating to the military movement. General Thomas’ brigade numbers not over 2,000. His infantry is camped four miles back of Alexandria on Williams’ plantation. One company of heavy artillery, six guns (called Bell Battery), and one company of light artillery are encamped at Pineville, opposite Alexandria. Collins’ company of scouts are on the east side of the Atchafalaya. Two companies of scouts, called steam-boat companies, and two other companies are along the west bank of the Atchafalaya, under command of Maj. Norman White. At Alexandria, on the opposite bank of the river, between the two falls, is a fort, finished, mounting four 5-inch rifled, and four 8-inch smooth-bore pieces. This fort is well equipped and supplied. All the guns bear down the river. The other fort is opposite the upper fall, and is a duplicate of the first.

Another fort on the Alexandria side is being constructed between the falls, to be armed with four guns from the Westfield, now en route from Houston. Five hundred or 600 negroes are now at work upon this fortification; 500 or 600 negroes are also at work on Druett’s Bluffs thirty-five miles above Grand Ecore, on the opposite side of the river, upon a work calculated to mount two mortars and two 8-inch guns. The light works at Grand Ecore are of little value. The raft obstructions and works at the mouth of the Cut-off, thirty-five miles below Shreveport, will probably be abandoned. The crops in Louisiana and Texas have been fine, mostly corn; some wheat in Texas. The opinion prevails among military men that an advance will be attempted this season by way of Alexandria. The concentration of troops there is to meet this movement. General Polignac is on his way to Paris, France, on ninety days’ furlough. Scurry’s division is along the Black River. Harrison’s scouts are along the Tensas River and Arkansas line. Denison’s cavalry regiment is along the Arkansas River and its mouth. Parsons’ cavalry brigade has gone to Texas. All Texas cavalry except Scurry’s division has gone to Texas. Most of the Arkansas cavalry is roaming through Arkansas. Most of the Louisiana cavalry has gone to Texas. Want of forage is the cause. The legislature is in session at Shreveport. Governor Allen has just issued a proclamation evidently designed to prepare the people of Louisiana to assent to the use of negroes as laborers, soldiers, and if need be, in the end, to their emancipation. The disaffection among the rebel soldiers is wide spread and increasing. They need only a head and an organization to openly bid defiance to Confederate authority in the Trans-Mississippi Department. Desertions are constant, though the deserter is treated with rigor. From three to eight executions take place at Alexandria every Friday, by command of General Buckner. A schooner with 300 bales of cotton is preparing to run out of Vermillion Bay. It will carry an agent to build or buy steamers to run the blockade on the Texas coast. This agent used to own and run the steamer Empire Parish. His family is in New Orleans. Torpedoes cannot be used in the Red River on account of the great rise and fall of the water. Informant was so told by the captain of the torpedo corps. No design is entertained of sending troops across the Mississippi River. Soldiers will not submit to the transfer. In conversation General Buckner stated to Mr. Armitage that Major-General Canby was dreaded as an able soldier and commander, and his movements were awaited with apprehension. Of Major-General Steele’s merits and military talent he had a good opinion. The withdrawal of General Banks from the command of the Federal forces in the Department of the Gulf was regarded by Confederate officers with much disapprobation and regret.

A communication from Capt. A. G. Fitz, Port Hudson, January 30, states that a deserter from Gober’s command confirms previous information in relation to Taylor being in command of all forces east of Mississippi River. His headquarters are at Summit, Miss.

I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
S. M. EATON,
Captain and Chief Signal Officer, Mil. Div. of West Mississippi.