I sent this letter to Admiral Porter from aboard the Silver Queen.
HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF THE TENNESSEE, ON BOARD GUN-BOAT SILVER CLOUD,
In motion near White River, January 19, 1864.
Admiral D. D. PORTER,
Commanding Mississippi Squadron, Cairo:
DEAR ADMIRAL: You will have learned of our safe arrival at Memphis in the Juliet. The ice was very bad, almost gorging at many points, especially at Randolph, but we got through all safe by the good management of Captain Watson. I found him a most agreeable and courteous commander, and he did everything possible for our comfort and safety. After staying two days at Memphis, making the necessary orders for my troops, and finding no transport bound down river, Captain Phelps, who happened at Memphis, most kindly offered to send me to Vicksburg in this boat, the Silver Queen.
I have been to Vicksburg and find all things well there, and am now returning to Memphis, where I propose to embark about 10,000 men for Vicksburg, whence, re-enforced by about a like force, I will move due east to reach Meridian and Demopolis. I have about 6,000 available cavalry, which I propose to move down the Mobile and Ohio the object you will appreciate at a glance. If I can destroy the railroad at Meridian, as we did those at Jackson last summer, it will be impossible for the enemy to maintain any considerable force in Mississippi. I think I can do it; at all events will try. I find the main river about 12 feet lower than it was last winter, therefore any attempt to reach Shreveport till a considerable rise be idle; but I learned that Yazoo is navigable to a point up Sunflower, and therefore I instructed General McPherson to send two regiments up Yazoo to reconnoiter and divert attention.
In passing Skipwith’s, I saw Captain Owen, and requested him to let General McPherson have one tin-clad, with he agreed to do within five days. He explained to me that he would have to leave Greenville exposed for the time, but I know that the mere appearance of a force up Yazoo will do more to prevent the enemy showing himself at Greenville than a boat at Greenville. Besides, if necessary, General McPherson can send the Marine Brigade to that point. I would use the brigade up Yazoo, but their boats draw too much water.
I can hear of no attempt to permanently threaten the Mississippi. The firing on boats at Greenville and Rodney was the work of the enemy, who was engaged in passing a lot of muskets from the east to the west bank of the river. In this they partially succeeded, but it amounts to little. If on arrival at Memphis I find my arrangements have not been delayed by the ice above, I expect to put all my forces in motion by January 25 and to be at Meridian February 8 or 10. I would like to be back by the 20th, at which time I should return to Huntsville. If by that time you calculate Red River will be in condition, and you want to make the Shreveport move, if you will procure General Grant’s orders I will be most happy to go along. Excuse apparent haste, but boat trembles.
As ever, your friend.
W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General, Commanding