The army is in motion in many directions. General Grant has ordered McPherson South of Vicksburg to join General McClernand across from Port Gibson. Admiral Porter is exploring the areas with his gunboats. General Grant is preparing transports to run past the Vicksburg guns. I have been doing what I can to help them. Our attempt to destroy houses that could be used to light the river has been rebuffed. The houses are too well protected. We will have guns that can fire on Vicksburg set for the campaign.
CAMP near Vicksburg, April 19, 1863.
Lieutenant Colonel John A. RAWLINS,
Assistant Adjutant-General, Milliken’s Bend:
SIR: Inclosed I send a report from General Steele. I think the Deer Creek country has been afflicted enough to make them, in the future, dread the Yankees’ visit, and would, therefore, request that General Steele be required to destroy the grist-mill which he describes, and return to his camp. Extra steamers might be sent him to bring off any extra stock or forage he may have collected, or, if you desire to afflict that region more, you might order him to go up the river a little higher and visit William’s Bayou.
I observe by the papers, they are uneasy about the Hushpuckanaw or Sunflower. Some maps represent Williams’ Bayou as the head of the Sunflower, but mine makes the Sunflower a large river rising in the Mississippi, about 10 miles below the Yazoo Pass. If you still desire to distract attention, some men from Helena might find the head of the Sunflower, and follow it a few miles.
I visited the battery on the point this morning, and found Captain Phillips, who represented the embrasure gorges as too low, not admitting the guns to an elevation enough to reach the court-house. I have sent to the engineer, Captain Kossak, the tools and men needed to make the alterations during the night. I reached the Leon with the Armenia, so that I now feel better satisfied as to our means of communication. I have a guard of 100 men with the battery, and a chain of sentinels to my quarters, so that I could send relief in case the battery is threatened. If the enemy has boats, he may attempt to spike guns calculated to do such mischief. If you think prudent, I will increase the guard.
Matters in my camp remain in status quo.
I am with respect,
W. T. SHERMAN
My division under General Steele is North of Vicksburg. It is time to withdraw them and prepare to march south when the time comes.
CAMP BEFORE Vicksburg, April 19, 1863.
Major General FRED. STEELE,
Commanding First DIVISION, Fifteenth Army Corps:
DEAR GENERAL: Yours of the 18th instant is just received, and I hasten to assure you that I most heartily approve your purpose to return to families their carriages, buggies, and farming tools, wherewith to make a crop. War at best is barbarism, but to involve all-children, women, old and helpless-is more than can be justified. Our men will become absolutely lawless unless this can be checked. Inasmuch as Greenville was a point from which the enemy attacked our boats, we were perfectly just in making the neighborhood feel the consequences. The destruction of corn or forage and provisions in the enemy’s country is a well-established law of war, and justifiable as the destruction or private cotton by the Southern Confederacy. Jeff. Davis, no doubt, agrees that they have a right to destroy their people’s cotton, but the guerrillas do not stop to inquire whose cotton they burn, and I know, as you know, the Confederate Government claims the war right to burn all cotton, whether belonging to their adherents or to Union men.
We surely have a similar right as to corn, cotton, folder, &c., used to sustain armies in war. Still, I always feel that the stores necessary for a family should be spared, and I think it injures our men to allow them to plunder indiscriminately the inhabitants of the country. Whatever restitution you may make to the families along Deer Creek and to Mr. Hunt will meet my hearty sanction; only impress on all with whom you converse that these devastating expeditions are the certain and inevitable consequences of firing on passing boats. As I think Deer Creek has been sufficiently chastised again to desire a Yankee visitation, I shall advise General Grant to order you back to camp.
You will have heard the only news from this quarter since my last. Bowen’s brigade has crossed to this side from Grand Gulf, and now that so large a fleet of gunboats is below, he cannot return. It may be, however, that the enemy intended this brigade of Missourians to work their way up to Price. I rode through your camps yesterday, and they are mostly dry and comfortable, but the water is close up to me. All my camps are now above my house.
I am, &c.,