The Navy came through with a gunboat and some transports to speed our crossing of the Tennessee River. They request that I give them more control of river traffic. That I will do. Commander Phleps is back at Eastport engaged in the crossing of my remaining divisions. I am at the head of the 15th Corp which reached Florence tonight. Commander Phleps penned the following letter:
U. S. GUNBOAT KEY WEST,
October 31, 1863
Major General WILLIAM T. SHERMAN, U. S. Army,
Commanding Department of the Tennessee, Iuka, Mississippi:
GENERAL: We will be due at Eastport at 4 a. m. with the transport Anglo-Saxon. The Nashville and a small ferry-boat should arrive by 8 or 9 o’clock this morning. I am writing, as well as this shaking vessel will permit, to advise you of this arrival, and to get my letter off as soon as we arrive. Either of the transports will require about 2 feet water when light, and the ferry-boat some 12 inches, I suppose. If sufficient detail of men is made, the cargo of the two steamers can be landed in a few hours, when they can cross men and horses very rapidly, but not wagons. The ferry-boat can take on eight wagons without teams, and some 50 horses. These boats, with the barge, can cross a division in twelve to fifteen hours. Fuel will be an immediate necessity. I have had to lend them all we could spare to get the boats up. The fences about may answer for a little while, but you will need to have wood cut immediately. I am told pine knots can be easily obtained about here.
A steamer came up from Paducah, which I suppose was one of the convoy. I missed her at Duck River, and was informed by the gunboat astern that she was on a private trading voyage, and had landed below us. I was in a hurry to get these vessels up, or I should have gone down and brought the steamer up here.
The river is everywhere thronged with guerrillas, and it is useless for us to patrol it and destroy skiffs, flats, &c., to prevent crossing the stream, when a steamer is permitted by the custom-house authorities to be on trading voyages. The permits are given by the Paducah custom-house officers. Would it not, as a military measure, be proper for you to order that no vessel shall be permitted to come up the Tennessee, except in convoy of a gunboat, and not to land except when the naval commander shall deem it safe and otherwise proper to do so? Your order to the custom-house officers they have to observe, and must give permits subject to them. The restrictions will enable gunboat officers to prevent detention to transports arising from the presence of trading vessels. In short, such an order will enable us to control the trade to the desirable point, permitting loyal people to get their products to market and to procure family supplies, while we can shut down on smuggling and make all conform to the public interests of a military character. If you give such an order please send it to me as soon as you can, and I will notify the Paducah authorities.
I shall send a gunboat down this morning, but will detain her till I can hear from you, and get what mail you may wish to send. She will reach Paducah in twenty hours, and, if you desire it, I will send her through to Cairo with your dispatches.
We captured some men, horses, arms, and saddles.
I am, respectfully, your obedient servant,
S. L. PHELPS, Commander Sixth and Seventh Divisions, Miss. Squadron