Jefferson Davis to E. Kirby Smith

Richmond, Va. May 8th. 1863.


The departure of the Hon R. W. Johnson affords a safe opportunity for writing to you, of which I avail myself. The communication with the Trans-Mississippi Department has been so irregular that I am but little informed of your present condition. So far as we have learned here, the enemy seem to confine their operations to the country below Lake Providence and would appear to be endeavoring to carry out the avowed purpose of preventing the cultivation of the crops, in all that fertile region known as the Bayou Country of Louisiana. Against such small detachments as are reported to be sent on these plundering expeditions, our hunter<-s-> if properly led would I think be effective. In the meantime and seemingly connected with the effort to get possession of the Mississippi River, Banks' Army is reported to be on the Atchafalaya and moving towards Red River. The fall of the Mississippi must soon close the navigation of Red River and all the bayous to their larger gunboats, but in the meantime great devastation must result from the presence of the enemy in South /and/ Western Louisiana. You have of course contemplated your power to restrain marauding parties and your ability to march against Banks and it needs no assurance to convince me that if you have not done both it was because you had not the means. You are doubtless aware of Genl Pemberton's position and of the presence of the enemy's fleet between Vicksburg and Port Hudson and therefore cannot look until there is a change of circumstances for anything from the east side of the River. The guns /& ammunition/ which have been sent out for you cannot now be transported and it therefore becomes of increased importance to push forward the work on the foundry near Shreveport, as well for the casting of guns, as shot and shell. Powder, I hope, you will be able to bring, in requisite quantities from the Rio Grande

If Pemberton is able to repulse the enemy in his land attack and to maintain possession of both Vicksburg and Port Hudson, the enemy's fleet cannot long remain in the River between those points from their inability to get coal and other necessary supplies, so that we may look forward to the reestablishment of communication with the Trans-Mississippi by the water route heretofore used, unless the enemy can occupy the lower part of Red River. With the decline of the water and the advent of summer the chances in your favor must increase and I can therefore readily anticipate many reasons for delay in those operations which I know you desire to undertake. We have had flattering accounts of the improvement of the army in Arkansas and some which I fear are exaggerated in relation to the effective force in Texas, but of all these I expect to be informed whenever you have the power to communicate with us. Senator Johnson will be able to give you details in relation to events here and I commend him to your special consideration Very Respectfully & Truly Yrs.

Jeffn,, Davis

From The Papers of Jefferson Davis, Volume 9, pp. 171-73. Transcribed from the original in the National Archives, RG 109, Documents in the Official Records, Volume 22, part 2, pp. 834-35.

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