Wednesday, February 3, 1864

Vicksburg, Tennesee

We marched out of Vicksburg today in two columns. Hurlbut’s Sixteenth Division to the left and north. McPherson’s Seventeenth Division to the right and south. Together they make about 20,000. I have a small cavalry force of 5000 to screen our movements. We will take our trains only as far as the Big Black River. The weather is perfect for a campaign.

I received messages for General Sooy Smith at Memphis. He should have already left for Meridian. I am disappointed in our cavalry.

MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE
February 2, 1864.

Major General W. T. SHERMAN, Commanding Department of the Tennessee:
SIR:

I fell exceedingly chagrined that I have not been able to make a start with my command up the present time. The brigade that moved from Columbus on the 19th ultimo has not yet reported. I am unofficially informed that they had great difficulty in crossing the Obion River and lost a considerable number of men and horses drowned. It is said that one regiment succeeded in getting over, and is on its way here by the route first contemplated, the trains having been sent back to Columbus to be brought down by water. The remaining two regiments started around by way of Jackson. The lieutenant-colonel of the regiment, who arrived here several days ago, thinks they must be heard from today. My force without them will fall a little short of 5,000 men, and as in our conversations a force of 7,000 was always hypothecated, I feel in doubt as to what you would direct me to do if you were here. I feel eager to pitch into them, but I know that it is not your desire to “send a boy to mill.”

I rely upon your confidence, and trust that you will approve the course which circumstances, with all the light that my best thought can reflect upon them, may seem to indicate as wisest, best, and most promising. My great anxiety is as to results and not as to my own connection with them. I have now, I think, reliable information as to Forrest’s strength and position, and I think he will show fight between the Coldwater and Tallahatchie. If he does, and moves far enough to the east to run against me in the vicinity of Salem or Ripley, it will suit us much better than to fight him as low down as Pontotoc, where he could concentrate a large force, and where we would be farther from home.

I have my whole command in readiness to move at a moment’s warning, and if the cavalry from Columbus is not heard from tomorrow I will move down and try what I can do with what I have. The delay in infantry in getting off relieves my mind a little, as I think you will be delayed a few days beyond expectation in Vicksburg. I send you inclosed a statement of an intelligent young gentleman just in from Johnston’s army. I have no doubt he intended to tell the truth, but of the accuracy of his statement you can better judge in the light of other intelligence you have. Wheeler’s cavalry will be likely to be thrown over upon the Mobile and Ohio Railroad, I think.

Very respectfully, your most obedient servant,
WM. SOOY SMITH, Brigadier General, Chief of Cavalry, Mil. Div. of the Mississippi

and a second message:

MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE,
February 2, 1864
Major General W. T. SHERMAN, Commanding Department of the Tennessee:

DEAR GENERAL:
Seventy of the Seventh Indiana Cavalry, on the way from Bolivar to this city with dispatches for me from Colonel Waring, came upon McGuirk’s Third Mississippi Regiment of Cavalry, 300 strong, at La Grange; pitched into them, routed them, killed 2, wounded several, and captured 9 prisoners, and a portion of them returned to Bolivar with their prisoners. The remainder came on with the dispatches, copies of which I inclose.

Yours, truly,
WM. SOOY SMITH, Brigadier-General, Chief of Cavalry

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