CAMP OPPOSITE GRAND GULF, May 6, 1863-12 m.
DEAR GENERAL: I sent you orders to follow us, leaving two regiments at Richmond and two a Milliken’s Bend, to be relieved by others from Memphis, when these regiments are to follow and overtake us. General Grant has ordered one brigade of McArthur’s DIVISION, also, to remain, and the other to join him. The steamboats here are poor concerns, except the Forest Queen, and the ferrying across will be a slow process. I would not be surprised if you would overhaul us before we are all across.
General Grant wants the commanding officer at Milliken’s Bend, General Sullivan, I suppose, to call in all the troops on this road, and occupy the road from my old headquarters to a point below Warrenton. The road will need a good deal of work. You may send in to Milliken’s Bend all at Richmond, and see that all detachments of my corps either keep along ahead of you, or return to Milliken’s Bend, to be put on that road.
Steamboats, after passing us over to Grand Gulf, will run up to get supplies there, viz, on the WEST bank, below Warrenton. You will find plenty of forage along this road, especially this end of it, viz, from Perkin’s to Hard Times. Your map is correct as far as Perkin’s place which is at the lower end of Bayou Vidal. From Perkin’s to this point the road is well marched, following Lake Saint Joseph, along which you will find some magnificent plantations. At Dr. Bowers’ you can send across the lake in a boat, and procure plenty of beef, hogs, and sheep. Corn is to be found in all the stables, and from Dr. Bowers’ to this place there is growing wheat, oats, and corn, on which you can feed your horses. The whole distance from Milliken’s Bend to Hard Times plantation is 63 miles; the road cannot be mistaken; better at this end than at yours.
Steele overtook his command, and rode in about an hour ago, and has gone back a mile or so to give the necessary orders for embarkation. I will cross over tonight, and will try and send you back all possible orders and information; but in case of accident follow us to Grand Gulf, and farther, according to the news that meets you there.
Yesterday Grant was at Hankinson’s Ferry, 18 miles out of Grand Gulf, on the south side of Big Black, the enemy facing him on the north bank. No fight since of the one near Port Gibson. The Fourth Iowa Cavalry has just reported to me. It will cross over and join Grant. The other regiment will remain under General Sullivan, or commanding officer at Milliken’s Bend.
I am deeply grieved at the loss of the tug with her precious cargo. We have picked up the barges, and will save some provisions, but none of the reporters “floated.” They were so deeply laden with weighty matter that they must have sunk. In the language of our Dutch captain, “What a pity for religion is this war!” but in our affliction we can console ourselves with the pious reflection that there are plenty more left of the same sort.
Don’t hurry your march too much, for I feel certain it will take some days to pass over the troops now here, and the wagons. Try and arrive in good, compact order, and with as much provision and ammunition left as possible. Grant reports plenty of meat and corn on the other side, but salt, coffee, sugar, and bread are out of the question save in our commissariat.
Knowing, as you must, the actual condition of things behind you, give orders or do all you can to expedite the new line proposed from my old headquarters to yours at Biggs’, and so around to a point below Warrenton. I want my chief quartermaster and commissary to join me by that route.
You will be delighted with the country along Bayou Saint Joseph. On leaving Perkins’, send a detachment of cavalry with a staff officer ahead to ascertain what transport there is to take you across. If you be delayed, camp back about Routh’s place, which is magnificent, with plenty of corn-fodder and everything. The house and farm have been plundered sadly, but the planters had all gone off, and no one left to protect them.
I shall begin to look for you on the THIRD day from this, unless we move far inland. Grant is now 18 miles northeast of Grand Gulf. I will keep in mind where you are, and await your junction with anxiety.
With great respect, your friend,
W. T. SHERMAN