1861
To General Curtis, with Inclosures.
 

WASHINGTON, October 24, 1861

BRIGADIER-GENERAL S. R. CURTIS.

MY DEAR SIR:--Herewith is a document--half letter, half order--which, wishing you to see, but not to make public, I send unsealed. Please read it and then inclose it to the officer who may be in command of the Department of the West at the time it reaches him. I cannot now know whether Fremont or Hunter will then be in command.

Yours truly,

A. LINCOLN.

WASHINGTON, October 24, 1861

BRIGADIER-GENERAL S. R. CURTIS.

DEAR SIR:--On receipt of this, with the accompanying inclosures, you will take safe, certain, and suitable measures to have the inclosure addressed to Major-General Fremont delivered to him with all reasonable despatch, subject to these conditions only: that if, when General Fremont shall be reached by the messenger--yourself or any one sent by you--he shall then have, in personal command, fought and won a battle, or shall then be actually in a battle, or shall then be in the immediate presence of the enemy in expectation of a battle, it is not to be delivered, but held for further orders. After, and not till after, the delivery to General Fremont, let the inclosure addressed to General Hunter be delivered to him.

Your obedient servant,

A. LINCOLN.

(General Orders No. 18.) HEADQUARTERS OF THE ARMY,

WASHINGTON, October 24, 1861

Major-General Fremont, of the United States Army, the present commander of the Western Department of the same, will, on the receipt of this order, call Major-General Hunter, of the United States Volunteers, to relieve him temporarily in that command, when he (Major-General Fremont) will report to general headquarters by letter for further orders.

WINFIELD SCOTT. By command: E. D. TOWNSEND, Assistant Adjutant-General.

WASHINGTON, October 24, 1861

TO THE COMMANDER OF THE DEPARTMENT OF THE WEST.

SIR:--The command of the Department of the West having devolved upon you, I propose to offer you a few suggestions. Knowing how hazardous it is to bind down a distant commander in the field to specific lines and operations, as so much always depends on a knowledge of localities and passing events, it is intended, therefore, to leave a considerable margin for the exercise of your judgment and discretion.

The main rebel army (Price's) west of the Mississippi is believed to have passed Dade County in full retreat upon northwestern Arkansas, leaving Missouri almost freed from the enemy, excepting in the southeast of the State. Assuming this basis of fact, it seems desirable, as you are not likely to overtake Price, and are in danger of making too long a line from your own base of supplies and reinforcements, that you should give up the pursuit, halt your main army, divide it into two corps of observation, one occupying Sedalia and the other Rolla, the present termini of railroads; then recruit the condition of both corps by re-establishing and improving their discipline and instructions, perfecting their clothing and equipments, and providing less uncomfortable quarters. Of course, both railroads must be guarded and kept open, judiciously employing just so much force as is necessary for this. From these two points, Sedalia and Rolla, and especially in judicious cooperation with Lane on the Kansas border, it would be so easy to concentrate and repel any army of the enemy returning on Missouri from the southwest, that it is not probable any such attempt will be made before or during the approaching cold weather. Before spring the people of Missouri will probably be in no favorable mood to renew for next year the troubles which have so much afflicted and impoverished them during this. If you adopt this line of policy, and if, as I anticipate, you will see no enemy in great force approaching, you will have a surplus of force which you can withdraw from these points and direct to others as may be needed, the railroads furnishing ready means of reinforcing these main points if occasion requires. Doubtless local uprisings will for a time continue to occur, but these can be met by detachments and local forces of our own, and will ere long tire out of themselves.

While, as stated in the beginning of the letter, a large discretion must be and is left with yourself, I feel sure that an indefinite pursuit of Price or an attempt by this long and circuitous route to reach Memphis will be exhaustive beyond endurance, and will end in the loss of the whole force engaged in it.

Your obedient servant,

A. LINCOLN.