Milliken’s Bend, Near Vicksburg
Major General F. P. BLAIR, Milliken’s Bend:
You are already fully advised of the orders which control the movements, and that my orders are merely in fulfillment of General Grant’s.
To-morrow I shall proceed in person to Richmond, where I expect to overtake General Steele’s and Tuttle’s DIVISIONS. Thence I shall go to Smith’s plantation, and so on to Perkin’s, whence I shall endeavor to put myself in communication with General Grant.
You will remain at Milliken’s Bend, and cover the road out as far as Richmond.
I inclose two letters,* from Colonels Stone and Schadt, which give the most intelligent account yet received of the way from Richmond toward Tensas. It was from that direction alone that I apprehended danger to the road, but these reports show that for the next ten days no approach can be made from that quarter. The One hundred and twenty-seventh Illinois, Colonel Eldridge, is now detailed from your DIVISION to work on the bayou. Let it remain as a working party, to be employed under Captain Jenney, at Richmond, in making a dam across Roundaway. It can be counted as one of the two regiments ordered to guard that point.
There are two regiments of cavalry here somewhere, one of which has been sent out to
Joe’s Bayou, by General Steele, by the road by which General Burbridge traveled last December. That road must leave the river 1 or 2 miles above this. Please order these two regiments of cavalry to proceed to Smith’s plantation, beyond Richmond, and thence send an officer to me, with a morning report of their strength, that I may instruct them according to General Grant’s orders. One of the regiments should start at once, and the other as soon as it returns from the expedition on which it was sent by General Steele.
If the enemy suppose we have evacuated the peninsula, they may be foolish, and rash. I wish you would tomorrow night take three or four regiments, put them on board of steamboats, and send them down to the levee, beyond the canal, and order them to march round the levee, by the 30-pounder batteries, to the foot of the canal, and, in case of seeing anything, push on to Bigg’s and the crevasse; you will see how complete the trap. The difficulty will be in landing, but I think the water has so far subsided that a landing can be made without difficulty. You might order it examined by daylight by one of the small tugs. I know such an expedition made and repeated occasionally will prevent any small party from coming across to molest our trains pouring along the road to Carthage.
I wish you would cause a thorough inspection of the invalid camps and see that men do not shirk labor. I feel assured in them, you will find plenty of men who can do all the heavy detail work of unloading steamboats and loading up wagons. This will leave your regiments for real soldier duty.
I will communicate with you often, and keep you advised of the actual state of affairs.
Send the cavalry forward at once, that I may station them for carrying dispatches and exploring the country beyond Bayou Vidal.
W. T. SHERMAN