HEADQUARTERS, Vicksburg, February 28, 1864 3 p.m.
Generals HURLBUT and McPHERSON,
I got here at 10 a.m. I find an immense mail, but nothing clear and distinct as to the Red River trip, except that Banks has made preparations to embark on the 5th, and expects Steele to march via Monroe and he across the country or up the river. Grant’s orders are silent, but I infer that if Banks makes the expedition we are to be auxiliary. In which event, I propose to send General Hurlbut’s corps, viz, the divisions of A. J. Smith, Tuttle, and Veatch. To make matters clear, I will take a fleet steamer and run down to Red River to see Admiral Porter and thence to New Orleans and be back to meet you at Vicksburg by the 6th.
I send by Vernay orders for you to leave March 3, unless in the mean time you hear of General Sooy Smith, when General McPherson must support him if he needs it and escort him into the Big Black to await my return.
I met your trains going out, and will have three days’ supply for each of you at Haynes’ Bluff and bridge. I send back with Vernay the dismounted men of the Fourth Iowa remounted. There are at Big Black 500 recruits for Hurlbut, and Tuttle has received his share. You can on arrival at Vicksburg furlough, say, one-half the men entitled to furloughs, provided it does not exceed one regiment to a brigade. Appeal to the others on the ground of patriotism.
I may be troubled to find boats enough for Hurlbut’s command, as the quartermaster at Saint Louis telegraphs that Banks has taken forty boats, and we must get some down here by stopping those in transition. Bingham will remain here to attend to this.
The Yazoo expedition is up at Yazoo City, and it might be well for General Hurlbut to communicate with it, as he passes near. I make the order for Hurlbut to come down that way, because I think he will find more forage than on the road I came. Everything is quiet here and everywhere. This whole country has been alarmed by reports of us, but I hope they will soon be relieved. Sooy Smith did not leave Memphis until the 11th, one day after he should have been at Meridian. If he meets with trouble, he must take it to himself; but should he come within reach of Canton I want McPherson to feel out for him and bring him in. I suppose he will strike Winslow’s trail and follow it in. Captain Vernay will bring out all newspapers and mail. I will be back by the time you reach Vicksburg.
W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General
In my mail was a letter from my friend and former colleague from Louisiana, Professor Boyd. Professor Boyd joined the Confederate Army and is now a prisoner of war. I will visit him on my trip downriver and arrange an exchange.