We now have forces both above and below Vicksburg, with General Steele above Vicksburg on the Mississippi side of the river. General Steele is raiding supplies and contrabands in the enemy’s rear. His presence should take some attention away from our army moving South of Vicksburg on the Louisiana Side.
HEADQUARTERS Fifteenth ARMY CORPS, Camp near Vicksburg, April 17, 1863
Major General FRED. STEELE, Comdg. First DIVISION, Deer Creek:
DEAR GENERAL: I have your note of March 24th, and, of course, know you have and will fulfill to the letter General Grant’s wishes in the matter of the Deer Creek expedition. His purpose is to destroy the resources of the enemy, and demonstrate the fact we can reach the interior of the country when necessary.
I see by the Jackson “Memphis Appeal” that General Stephen D. Lee has gone up to the Hushpuckanaw, or Sunflower; it may be to Bogue Phaliah or Bayou Phaliah, as well as Deer Creek. If this be so, he will have with him a force approximating yours. You will, therefore, do well to be cautious in making weak expeditions far from the river.
General Grant has gone down to New Carthage by Willow Bayou. As soon as the returns, I will consult him as to the propriety of a longer stay there, unless, from information you may obtain there, you have reason to suppose the enemy will attempt to make a lodgment on the river at any point above us, which must be prevented, as a matter of course.
Seven gunboats and two transports ran the blockade successfully last night. One transport (the Henry Clay) was burned, loaded with rations, hay, cotton, and sack oats. Her crew got ashore safely, and we picked up the pilot floating on a plank just abreast of the Biggs place. Colonel Abbott is over there still. I went over last night with him, and witnessed the cannonading from the point where the De Soto lay. I also boarded the admiral as he passed.
The gunboats lost very few men, indeed; though I hem, only one actual death was reported and six wounded. Still, I suppose the loss of life was greater. The loss of the Henry Clay is not material, as her load was small, and the boat itself a poor old concern.
The Silver Wave passed uninjured. The Forest Queen had one shot in the hull and another through a steam pipe. She is repairing at the crevasses, and I expect to have her ready to go on down tomorrow or next day. All the others are supposed to be at Carthage, where McClernand’s corps is now. McPherson is moving down to Milliken’s Bend, and I suppose he will move against the Big Black River Bridge, via Grand Gulf.
The new canal that is to feed this new line of operations is by Willow Bayou to Carthage River to Grand Gulf, and wagons from there. I confess I don’t this roundabout project, but we must support Grant in whatever he undertakes.
As soon as General S. D. Lee perceives this move, he will hasten back to Vicksburg from your vicinity. I am also told that a raft in Yazoo at Haynes’ Bluff is adrift, either by accident or design. We must look out now for some of their cotton-clad rams.
I think General L. Thomas will inspect you at Greenville, and will relieve you of all able-bodied negroes.
As ever, yours,
W. T. SHERMAN