Millikens Bend, Near Vicksburg
General Grant has ordered me to supervise activities at this end. I have given orders to build a road that can take supplies from the river to the Bayou where they can be transported on boats.
General Grant has also suggested that I create a diversion at Haynes Bluff. He fears that newspapers will misinterpret the action.
SMITH’S PLANTATION, Louisiana, April 27, 1863
Major General WILLIAM T. SHERMAN, Commanding Fifteenth Army Corps:
If you think it advisable, you may make a reconnaissance of Haynes’ Bluff, taking as much force and as many steamers as you like. Admiral Porter told me that he would instruct Captain Breese to do as you asked him with his fleet. The effect of a heavy demonstration in that direction would be good so far as the enemy are concerned, but I am loth to order it, because it would be so hard to make our own troops understand that only a demonstration was intended, and our people at home would characterize it as a repulse. I therefore leave it to you whether to make such a demonstration. If made at all, I advise that you publish your order beforehand, stating that a reconnaissance in force was to be made for the purpose of calling off the enemy’s attention from our movements south of Vicksburg, and not with any expectation of attacking. I shall probably move on Grand Gulf tomorrow.
U. S. GRANT
I sent the following reply to General Grant:
ILLIKEN’S BEND, April 28, 1863.
Major-General GRANT, Comdg. Dept. of the Tennessee, Carthage:
DEAR GENERAL: I received your letter of the 27th last night, and early this morning went to see Captain Breese, and agreed with him as to the demonstration on Haynes’ Bluff the moment the Choctaw arrives. She was at Memphis last Saturday, and should be here today. I will take, ten steamers and ten regiments, and go up the Yazoo as close to Haynes’ as possible without putting the transport under the rifled guns of the enemy. We will make as strong a demonstration as possible. The troops will all understand the purpose, and will not be hurt by the repulse.
The people of the country must find out the truth as they best can; it is none of their business. You are engaged in a hazardous enterprise, and, for good reasons, wish to divert attention; that is sufficient to me, and it shall be done. I will be all ready at daylight, and shall embark the men the moment Captain Breese notifies me he is ready.
I have urged General Tuttle, in person, to push the wagon road from Duckport to Walnut Bayou, and will let him have no peace till it is done, and will put a train of about 100 of my regimental wagons on it. Another train of my wagons, from Steele’s division, will travel the road by which McPherson went out.
For forage and provisions, we might run the batteries on some of the boats that are now useless on account of the decline in the waters of Walnut Bayou. The road Young’s Point Biggs’ and Bedford’s, below Warrenton, is out of the question; Dismiss it from your calculations. The only roads are via Walnut Bayou, and that bayou can only be reached from Milliken’s Bend and Duckport.
All is well here, but the rains have made the roads, as you know, muddy and full of ruts.
I am, in haste, yours truly,
W. T. SHERMAN
I have ordered Steele’s division to begin construction:
HEADQUARTERS Fifteenth ARMY CORPS, Camp before Vicksburg, April 27, 1863
Major General FRED. STEELE, Commanding First DIVISION, Milliken’s Bend:
DEAR GENERAL: General Grant, finding the bayou hence to Carthage of less capacity then he had counted on, had countermanded my orders of march, and has required of me other things, of which the guarding the road from Milliken’s Bend to Richmond is one.
You will encamp your DIVISION in good order, with full tents, at the best camping ground you can find.
By to-morrow or Wednesday, I expect McPherson’s corps will be at or beyond Richmond. You will detach to that point two regiments, under orders of some good colonel, with instructions to march to Richmond and take post so as to cover the bridge at that point, and to send vedettes and pickets up the bayou to the northwest, in the direction of the Tensas, as far as the retiring waters will admit.
You will also send some intelligent officer along, with orders to examine the bayou up toward Tensas in a boat, or, if the waters admit, along the levee, and make written report of the condition of the plantations-as to people, negroes and whites, corn, plowing, planting,&c. If guerrillas or an enemy threaten that road from the west, it must be at or near Richmond and from the direction of Tensas. Also instruct the officer who holds that point to erect a few log block-houses, or convert the cotton sheds, cabins, and houses of some plantation into a defensive outpost, to guard against a sudden dash of mounted men.
I take it for granted that the swamp back of Milliken’s is under water, but I wish you to cause frequent inspections of the roads back to Bear Lake and to the northwest, and report the moment waters subside so as to make them practicable.
General Grant directs me to control matters at this end. You will, therefore, assume absolute control over everybody on shore on in boats tied to the shore at Milliken’s Bend, and enforce good order.
Men in hospital must be in their hospital camps. Quartermasters must not be wandering about, and all soldiers and citizens must be kept within the limits of good behavior.
Put the negroes in some out of the way place, where their women will not be the source of broils and disorder. When General Thomas returns from Carthage, he can dispose of them on plantations above. A ferry will make two daily trips between, and I will expect frequent reports.
I am, &c.,
W. T. SHERMAN