The Papers of Jefferson Davis
 
The Papers of Jefferson Davis

This portrait of unknown origin, depicting Davis in the 1880s, hangs in the office of The Papers of Jefferson Davis, located at Rice University in Houston, TX

 

 Jefferson Davis to E. Kirby Smith


Richmond Va. Novr. 19th. 1863

General.

I have the honor to acknowledge yours of Sept. 28th. and have noted your remarks on the condition of your Dept. and its necessities. The Treasury Dept. long since sent out agents with authority and the requisite machinery to effect the ends which you desire in that regard. They were sent by sea and encountered delay; but it is hoped they have since arrived and will relieve you of the embarrassments mentioned in regard to finance operations.

I have directed a supply of arms, say 25,000, to be sent to you across the Missi. & have telegraphed to Genl. Johnston to correspond with you so as to secure your cooperation in giving protection & transportation to the arms after they reach the West side of the river. You have been heretofore advised of the arrangements made to send you arms by way of the Rio. Grande & the disappointments which have been encountered. I rely equally upon your vigilance to discover the purposes of the enemy & upon your energy to counteract them to the full extent of your means.

The force of the enemy as estimated by scouts is generally exaggerated. I hope it has been so in this case & if it should be possible to restore confidence among our own people, I trust that desertions will cease and that recruits will flock to your standard.

The evacuation of the valley of the Arkansas nodoubt produced, as usual in such cases, desertions from the troops raised in that quarter. If the chances of war should enable you to reoccupy it those men would doubtless return to you. But the reoccupation has a higher importance than this, -- that is the only region where you can obtain the requisite supplies to support an army for the defence of Arkansas or for an advance into Missouri. So long as you have no boats to navigate the Arkansas & White rivers those streams may be rendered dangerous to the enemy by the use of submarine torpedoes, & when those rivers are high it would not be practicable for the enemy to transport supplies by land in sufficient quantity to feed an army in Arkansas or S. Western Missouri. There is therefore a double advantage to be derived from holding the valley of the Arkansas and securing its supplies for the use of your army.

I have been pained to hear of disagreement between Generals [Theophilus H.] Holmes and [Sterling] Price. Without the requisite information to enable me to judge which is the more to blame, the more important consideration may be concluded without such proof that discord between the two highest officers of an army must materially impair its efficiency & otherwise work evil to the public service.

Under these circumstances, it has occurred to me that Genl. Price might be more available in the direction of Kansas and Western Missouri. I am not sufficiently advised as to the state of things there and the fitness of the senior officer to command, to judge of the propriety of the change which would be effected by sending Genl. Price to that quarter; and, therefore, only design to bring the matter to your consideration.

The general truth that power is increased by the concentration of an army is under our peculiar circumstances subject to modification. The evacuation of any portion of territory involves not only the loss of supplies but in eve[ry] instance has been attended by a greater or less loss of troops, & a General, therefore, has in each case a complex problem to solve. With high esteem & cordial good wishes I am very respectfully & truly yours

Jeffn,, Davis. 



 

From The Papers of Jefferson Davis, Volume 10, pp. 80-83. Transcribed from a signed copy in the National Archives, RG109, Documents in the Official Records, Volume 22, part 2, pp. 1071-72.



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