HEADQUARTERS Fifteenth ARMY CORPS, Camp before Vicksburg, April 27, 1863
Major-General GRANT, Carthage:
GENERAL: Your letter of April 24 is this moment received. I feared the difficulties you now experience, and went myself yesterday, and examined the new canal from Duckport to Willow Bayou. I sounded it in its whole length; it is nearly 3 miles long. The first mile is comparatively good; the middle mile is bad; has not an average depth of 1 foot; and the last mile has 3 feet, 2 feet, and nothing. 200 yards at Willow Bayou is dry. I made a rude estimate, and allowing for four dredges (I only found two employed), will take near FIFTY days’ work to make a canal 8 feet deep. Your tugs draw 7 1/2 feet.
All my orders were out to march in the morning, but I have this moment countermanded them. Steele’s DIVISION is at Milliken’s Bend, and I will leave him there to guard that point and the road back to Richmond. Tuttle is at the canal. I will at once make him go to work to build a wagon road back along the canal to the bayou, as auxiliary to the one from Milliken’s Bend. I examined it as I was sounding the canal, and think it can be done.
Blair’s DIVISION I will hold here, and proceed to make the examinations you suggest, but I am already familiar with every avenue possible. Though the water in the river has fallen 2 feet, and retired from the plain where my present camp is, still there is enough in the woods back and in the ditches for a boat to navigate from here to the Biggs place. Between Bigg’s and Bedford’s place, opposite Warrenton, there is an old crevasse, and the cut is wide, deep, and impassable. Still, I will make further examination of it. I do not believe it possible for an empty wagon to proceed from here to any point below Warrenton for two weeks. I do not believe the new canal will be available in one month. I think I can make a wagon road back from Tuttle’s camp to Richmond, which will be separate and distinct from the one now used, and to that extent available to your purpose. I may also, with plank, make a road across to the Hecla place from Young’s Point. I have an excellent map, but have today furnished my DIVISION commanders all but the original. I will inclose a sketch with this, illustrating the roads I propose to assist you. To haul hence, via Bigg’s and Bedford’s place, below Warrenton, is simply impossible. We did corduroy 2 miles of it once, but there are 4 feet of water now, and, even should the water subside, it will remain a pulpy quagmire for a month.
I believe you have good bayou navigation from Carthage up to Richmond, and our best course is to push road to Richmond. The tug Rumsey should have run the batteries last night, but she did not go. She will start to-night, and it is favorable, being rainy and dark. She has two barges in tow.
Graham is here at this moment, and will carry this up to Milliken’s Bend and dispatch it to you.
I am, with great respect,
W. T. SHERMAN