HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF THE TENNESSEE,
February 6, 1864
Brigadier General J. M. TUTTLE, Commanding on Big Black:
GENERAL: Telegraph substantially to commanding officers at Vicksburg, Natchez, and Memphis, also to General Halleck, General Grant, and Admiral Porter, care of General Reid, Cairo, as follows:
General Sherman’s command, composed of McPherson’s and Hurlbut’s corps, left Vicksburg on February 3rd in two columns via the railroad bridge and Messinger’s. On the 4th, McPherson met the enemy (Wirt Adams’ brigade) and skirmished as far as Bolton. On the 5th, Hurlbut’s column encountered Starke’s brigade of cavalry at Joe Davis’ plantation and drove it through Clinton toward Canton. Same day McPherson pushed Wirt Adams into and beyond Jackson. General Sherman occupied Jackson on the 6th, and will cross Pearl and enter Brandon on the 7th, and so on. He reports three small brigades of cavalry and Loring’s division of infantry up toward Canton, and French’s division of infantry to his front at or near Brandon.
After passing Pearl tomorrow morning I shall break up the bridge we have made of the enemy’s pontoons, so you must not attempt to communicate with me save by couriers well acquainted with the country and people. Our troops and trains are well up. Notify General McArthur that I want that Yazoo expedition pushed to the farthest point possible, and to remain up Yazoo near a month and communicating back to Vicksburg as often as Captain Owen thinks necessary.
Also, Hawkins’ command should be most active, operation from Haynes’ Bluff to Mechanicsburg and over to Big Black. I want you to stay at the bridge, and also to cover the pontoon bridge at Messinger’s. If there should be any sign of the enemy’s scouts opposite Messinger’s that pontoon bridge should be only partially laid, and a guard kept there watching for any party I may send back.
The delay of William Sooy Smith at Memphis may compel me to modify my plans a little, but not much. Roads are excellent. We find some corn and meat, but Jackson and country are desolate enough. Our troops fought very handsomely and keenly all the way, marching rough-shod over all opposition. The enemy’s loss in killed is about 20, and 50 wounded, at least. We captured one of his guns, with horses and men. We have lost about 10 killed and 25 wounded. I send in prisoners. The list of prisoners of war to be held at Vicksburg to be sent North, and those marked refugees are soldiers who wanted to be captured, and whom you may cause to be released at Vicksburg and send northward free.
I think the enemy will meet us at some point between this and Meridian, with General Polk in command, with Loring’s and French’s divisions and the entire cavalry force of General Stephen D. Lee, composed of Wirt Adams’, Starke’s, Ferguson’s, and Ross’ brigades of cavalry. Ross’ brigade of cavalry is the force met on Yazoo at Satartia, but is now hurrying across to Canton and eastward. Our movement has driven away from the river everything from Yazoo City to Natchez.
Keep the commanding officers named in the first part of this letter informed of all reliable intelligence of my progress, that they may act and be governed accordingly. Write to General Buckland to convey this intelligence to General Smith, and that I want him to execute the original plan to the letter.
I am, &c.,
W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General, Commanding