On board Westmoreland, en route for Memphis
A communication arrived from General Steele and I replied:
HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF THE TENNESSEE,
On board Westmoreland, en route for Memphis, March 8, 1864.
Major General FREDERICK STEELE,
Commanding Department of Arkansas, Little Rock:
DEAR GENERAL: I wrote you in full by Colonel Woodrow. After he left I heard from Admiral Porter that his expedition had ascended Washita and at Trinity drove off a brigade, capturing the enemy’s redoubts, with three rifled 32-pounders, which were brought away. At Harrisonburg they could see but one gun mounted in a fort on a distant hill. Not having any land force they set fire to the town only. Shallowness of water limited operations to 20 miles above Harrisonburg. By tomorrow General A. J. Smith with 10,000 of my men will be at the mouth of Red River, and will go up Red as far as Alexandria to meet General Banks by or before March 17.
Water in the Red is very low, and I doubt if the fleet can get over the falls or rapids there, in which event they must await a rise or go up by land alone. I think the expedition should not attempt Shreveport until the gun-boats can participate. At all events I give you the information that up to latest dates the water continued too low in Red River to admit the passage of the gun-boats above Alexandria. But in any event you should move in force as far as Arkadelphia, and thence to Shreveport or Natchitoches, according as you hear the gun-boats are above or below Alexandria. I suppose you have no trouble in getting spies to and from Alexandria.
I am going to Memphis and thence around to Huntsville, to prepare for the big fight in Georgia that is sure to come off in all April or May.
With great respect, &c.,
W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General, Commanding
This is the communication I received from Steele:
LITTLE ROCK, ARK., March 7, 1864
Major General W. T. SHERMAN:
DEAR SHERMAN: I have been wishing to write you for some time, but you fly about so that I cannot keep track of you. The newspapers make you omnipresent almost. The last accounts by telegraph from the North makes you on your way to join Grant at Huntsville, Alabama. You have swallowed several rebel armies whole and been annihilated several times yourself. However, our conjectures have all been put at rest by a bearer of dispatches from General Banks, who has just arrived, and who is now waiting for this note. I answered your note in which you spoke of the death of poor old Duke. If you come up into this department, I think I can replace him. There are still some fine horses here, and I have a finer steed than ever. I have not yet heard from the young officer in whose behalf you and Mr. Ewing wrote. I asked my assistant adjutant-general to hunt him up. If I cannot give him an agreeable situation, I will send him anywhere you may indicate.
If you and Banks move up Red River, it is my opinion that the rebels will run without giving battle. I have indicated in dispatches to General Banks what co-operation you may expect from me. I regret exceedingly that I am not prepared to move with my effective force and help run those fellows into Mexico at once, but if the contemplated movement is made, Arkansas will be cleared of rebel troops. I have no doubt but that Price and some members of his staff have gone to Europe, deserted. The wife of one of them told me on her way to join her husband that she was going to make her husband go. Mrs. Anderson was anxious that Sam should quit. When the women give it up, the rebels cannot hold out long.
I will write you at Vicksburg.
Yours, truly, and in haste,
FRED K STEELE, Major-General.
P. S.-A bearer of dispatches from Grant was under the impression that you would be obliged to join Grant by way of Huntsville.
Davidson attempted McClernand’s game on me, and was also blown up by his own bombshell.