Before I make my march and want to leave orders for General Hawkins to protect the plantations between the Yazoo and the Mississippi from enemy bands.
HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF THE TENNESSEE Vicksburg, February 1, 1864
Major General JAMES B. MCPHERSON, Commanding District of Vicksburg:
GENERAL: Before we depart for the interior I wish you would instruct General Hawkins as follows:
He is designed from Haynes’ Bluff to operate on the peninsula between the Yazoo and tributaries, so as to insure the safety of the plantations bordering the Mississippi. In time a similar force will be placed at Harrisonburg to operate up the Ouachita and its tributaries. These two forces can more perfectly secure the leasehold estates along the Mississippi than if distributed along the main river.
The present expedition of gun-boats and troops will produce the first effect; but this must be continued and kept up by General Hawkins’ command. Please instruct him to move his men by degrees over to the Big Black, and back and up the the peninsula as far as Mechanicsville. Let him also collect skiffs to the number of fifty, or furnish him the material to make them. These skiffs will carry 5 or 6 men each, and will enable him to send detachments of 200 or 300 men up Deer Creek and across to the Mississippi by Steele’s Bayou; also up the Sunflower and its many devious channels, as well as the Bayou Phalia. Such expeditions will suit the habits of his troops, and will effectually prevent the smaller bands of guerrillas from approaching the river plantations.
By protecting the planters in that region he will soon create an interest that will keep him advised of the movements of the bands of guerrillas that now infest that country. The whole country between the Yazoo and Mississippi Rivers is one labyrinth of creeks connecting with each other, making it very favorable to parties in boats, and soon the officers and men will get a knowledge of these that will give them every advantage over parties on horseback.
Let General Hawkins go to work at once to put in operation this plan, and when-ever he needs one or more steam-boats for large expeditions he can call for them from the commanding officer here at Vicksburg. General Shepard of the negro organization, has reported to me. You may put him on duty in connection with the negro troops in your command that will not interfere with other generals of white troops.
I am, with respect, yours, truly,
W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General, Commanding