Camp on the Big Black River, Near Vicksburg, Mississippi
I sent the following reply to a request from General McPherson:
TO JAMES B. MCPHERSON
Headquarters Fifteenth Army Corps
Camp on Big Black, September 4, 1863.
Major Gen. J. B. McPherson, Commanding Seventeenth Army Corps, Vicksburg:
Yours of yesterday is received. I can as well picket the point above Haynes Bluff as not, and you need not send any men there, as it will simply add to our joint sick-list. I think that flank is well covered by my brigade (Buckland’s) at Oak Ridge Post-Office, with a picket of four companies down on the Valley road above the bluff.
A batch of negroes have collected at Roach’s plantation on the Valley road, near the Bald Ground Creek. I authorized General Corse, when in command at Oak Ridge (and will renew to General Buckland the same instructions) to organize the males of that gang into a kind of outlying picket, giving them a few mills to grind the corn which abounds there, and giving them a little bacon, &c. There are about 100 negroes fit for service enrolled under the command of the venerable George Washington, who, mounted on a sprained horse, with his hat plumed with the ostrich feather, his full belly girt with a stout belt, from which hangs a terrible cleaver, and followed by his trusty orderly on foot, makes an army on your flank that ought to give you every assurance of safety from that exposed quarter.
Should, however, the secesh be rash enough to gobble up that picket, I still think we could survive the loss, for behind them is Buckland’s picket of four companies. If you have a regiment of negroes, it might be advisable to post them in the intrenched position at Snyder’s mill, with orders to remove to some floating scow (for transfer to you) the heavy, ordnance that did lie where the carriages burned by Admiral Porter’s orders left them. These guns are useless to us at that place, and should any awkward accident ever put our enemy in possession again of Snyder’s Bluff, they might soon be put in position to our detriment.
I review my four divisions on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday of each week; will have leisure on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. I propose on Sunday, if all is quiet, to drive my children and Mrs. Sherman in by land to our old camp of investment north of Vicksburg, that they may see a place in which they naturally feel an interest. I may camp about your headquarters, if you are not appalled by the sight of so much non-combatant material, on Sunday night, and return by the Hall’s Ferry road on Monday, thus making the circuit. I can then see you and talk over matters.
I wish you would restrict the provost-marshal in giving passes out of our lines. Individuals may want to go and come back. I allow no person the privilege of going and returning; they should elect to stay out or in; we are liable to a system of spies otherwise. Let the people of Mississippi expel the dragoons if they want the favor of trade or intercourse with us. As long as their country is traversed by these bands we have no interest in them. I tell all I see that we don’t care what they do. If they befriend us we will favor them, but if they are inert they must bear the burdens of two hostile armies. They cannot expel us, but they can expel our enemy, and that is their only hope of peace.
As ever, your friend,
W. T. Sherman, Major-General