OR, Series 1, Vol. 32, Part 2, Page 647

Dalton, February 1, 1864
His Excellency the President
   Major Cummings, purchasing commissary for this army, reports that he can procure no meat but a thousand cattle promised from Mississippi. In all the departments the troops claim the stock. This army has no country to supply it. If the present system continues we must go without meat. With proper management Mississippi and West Tennessee could furnish us much.
J. E. Johnston

First indorsement

   Respectfully returned to His Excellency the President.
   This telegram is inconsistent, and exhibits a heedless disregard of the facts of the case. Since the retreat of the army now commanded by General Johnston it has been subsisted from the States of Florida and Georgia. It is entirely on account of the system of securing supplies now in operation that the troops in a department cannot retain the supplies in that department for their own exclusive use, as is alleged by General Johnston. In consequence of this system the troops in the Department of South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida have been obliged to share their supply of meat with the Army of Tennessee.
   In the latter part of October, 1863, upon a suggestion from this bureau, Major Cummings sent an efficient agent to Mississippi, who, with Major Dameron's co-operation, was to examine and report what quantity of subsistence, particularly of cattle and hogs, could be secured in North Mississippi. On the 13th of November, 1863, that agent reported to Major Cummings that he had made an examination of the country referred to, and Major Dameron and himself unitedly petitioned General Johnston (then in command in Mississippi) to furnish the military aid absolutely necessary to secure the cattle and hogs---of the former 3,000 or 4,000, and of the latter about 10,000. Owing to the proximity of the enemy the people would not undertake to drive up their stock to deliver to the agents of this department without a show of force. This military protection was refused by General Johnston.
   Efforts were repeatedly made by Major Dameron to obtain military assistance from General Johnston, and he also frequently begged of him transportation to enable him to secure supplies of sugar from points near the enemy's lines. These efforts were uniformly unsuccessful.
   On 27th January, Major Dameron reported that during the week previous he had sent 1,000 head of cattle to Major Cummings, and that he would continue to extend all the help he could to the Army of Tennessee.
   On the 19th of January, General Johnston was informed by the bureau that the subject of getting cattle and other supplies for the Army of Tennessee had been considered, and action taken by instructions to Majors Dameron, of Mississippi, and Walker, of Alabama, and Major Cummings was instructed to reopen communication with them on the subject.
   When General Forrest went into West Tennessee, Major Wilson, chief commissary of that State, sent officers with funds to co-operate and secure the subsistence supplies. They were not permitted by General Forrest to get anything there, for reasons satisfactory to him.
   Major Dameron reports himself in readiness to take advantage of every forward movement in West Tennessee.
   General Johnston, in November, 1862, assumed command of the department embracing Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana, east of the Mississippi River. It was all-important that the army of General Bragg should be subsisted from Tennessee. This bureau had there an agent who had always contributed greatly to the supply of the troops in Tennessee, and he had engaged large stores in Middle Tennessee. There were in that section immense stores available at prices much below those for which they could be gotten in States south.
   The repairs of the bridge over Elk Creek, on the railroad from Columbia to Athens {the Central Southern RR and the Tennessee & Alabama Central RR}, would have enabled us to drain that fertile region. No delay should have occurred, for one month's use would have repaid any expenditure. On February 4, 1863, this work not having been attempted, and time passing, on the representation of Mr. O. C. Brane, an agent of this bureau, as to its importance, efforts were made by this bureau to have the work done. From the correspondence herewith furnished it appears that two months before this bureau had any knowledge of the necessity for the bridge General Bragg's engineer had examined and reported upon the subject. Yet during the two months following no effective action was taken by General Johnston in a matter so vitally important after the battle of Murfreesborough. About this very time General Johnston was asking for the meat which had been collected that fall and the previous winter at Atlanta, to be supplied to troops on the waters of the Atlantic, and on which they were dependent. These facts occurred before the present system was inaugurated.
   The unnecessary destruction of public property, consequent upon some of the military movements made by General Johnston, indicates that his judgment in such matters is of doubtful value, and his opposition to the system while commanding in Mississippi, persisted in now, shows that he then gave no aid in removing obstacles in the way of what he is now advocating, and attacks the present system by contradictory action.
   As his attacks on the present system are general, the evil consequences deprecated by him will equally affect all our armies, because under the present system his army has as much territory to depend on as any other. He must have some alternative plan to be proposed by which the armies may be supplied with meat.
   I request that Your Excellency will direct him to report on this question, specifying his objection to the present system and proposing a better one.
   The records of this and of the engineer bureau will furnish evidence to substantiate the foregoing statements.
L. B. Northrop

Second indorsement

Richmond, March 20, 1864
   The statement of the Commissary-General in his comments on the telegram of General Johnston are, so far as they relate to his (General Johnston's) refusal to give Major Dameron's collecting parties military protection, absolutely incorrect. Major Dameron applied, so it was then understood, for troops to be placed at his disposal, or that of his agents, civil employees for the most part, to be sent with his agents wherever they might choose to go. This was refused by General Johnston's directions. A communication was made by me to Major Dameron in which he was informed that troops would be sent for the protection of any expedition of his on application to General Johnston, if it was considered safe. Of this in all cases General Johnston was to judge.
Benj. S. Ewell
Formerly Col. and Asst. Adjt. Gen., Dept. of Mississippi.