I sent a letter to General AJ Smith with my expectations for the expedition:
HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF THE TENNESSEE, Vicksburg, March 6, 1864
Brigadier General A. J. SMITH, Commanding Expedition up Red River:
GENERAL: By an order this day issued you are to command a strong, well-appointed detachment of the Army of the Tennessee, sent to re-enforce a movement against the Red River line, but more especially the fortified positions at Shreveport. You will embark your command as soon as possible, but little encumbered with wagons or wheeled vehicles, but well supplied with fuel, provisions, and ammunition. Take with you the twelve mortars, with their ammunition, and all the 30-pounder Parrotts the ordnance officer will supply. Proceed to the mouth of Red River and confer with Admiral Porter; confer with him and in all the expedition rely on him implicitly, as he is the approved friend of the Army of the Tennessee, and has been associated with us from the beginning.
I have undertaken with General Banks that you will be at Alexandria, Louisiana on or before the 17th day of March, and you will, if time allows, co-operate with the navy in destroying Harrisonburg, up Black River on the Washita. As I passed Red River yesterday I saw Admiral Porter, and he told me he had already sent an expedition to Harrisonburg. I suppose that part of the plan will be accomplished before you reach Red River. In any event, be careful to reach Alexandria about the 17th of March.
General Banks will start by land from Franklin, in the Teche country, either the 5th or 7th, and will march via Opelousas to Alexandria. You will meet him there, report to him, and act under his orders. My understanding with him is, his forces will still move by land via Natchitoches, &c., to Shreveport, whilst the gun-boat fleet is to ascend the river with your transports in company.
Now, Red River is very low for the season, and I doubt if any of the boats can pass the falls or rapids at Alexandria. What General Banks proposes to do in that event I do not know, but my own judgment is that Shreveport ought not to be attacked until the gun-boats can reach it. Not that a force marching by land cannot do it alone, but it would be bad economy in war to invest the place with an army so far from heavy guns, mortars, ammunition, and provisions, which can alone reach Shreveport by water. Still, I do not know about General Banks’ plans in that event, but whatever they may be, your duty will be to conform in the most hearty manner.
My understanding with General Banks is that he will not need the co-operation of your force beyond thirty days from the date you reach Red River. As soon as he has taken Shreveport or as soon as he can spare you will return to Vicksburg with all dispatch, gather up your detachments, wagons, tents, transportation, and all property pertaining to so much of the command as belongs to the Sixteenth Army Corps, and conduct it to Memphis, where orders will await you.
My present belief is, your division entire will be needed round with the Army of the Tennessee about Huntsvile or Bridgeport. Still, I will leave orders with General Hurlbut at Memphis for you on your return. I believe if water will enable the gun-boats to cross the rapids at Alexandria, you will be able to make a quick, strong, and effective blow at our enemy in the West, thus widening the belt of our territory and making the breach between the Confederate Government and its outlying Trans-Mississippi Department more perfect. It is understood that General Steele makes a simultaneous move from Little Rock on Shreveport or Natchitoches, with a force of about 10,000 men.
Banks will have 17,000 and you 10,000. If these can act concentrically and simultaneously you will make short work of it, and then General Banks will have enough force to hold as much of the Red River as he deems wise, leaving you to bring to General Grant’s main army, the 7,500 men of the Sixteenth Corps. Having faith in your sound judgment and experience, I confide this important and delicate command to you with certainly that you will harmonize perfectly with Admiral Porter and General Banks, with whom you are to act, and thereby insure success.
I am, with respect, &c.,
W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General, Commanding
I sent orders for troop dispositions. AJ Smith will support Banks on the Red River Expedition. Troops not needed here will be sent to join the forces in Alabama.
SPECIAL FIELD ORDERS, HDQRS. DEPT. OF THE TENN., No. 24. Vicksburg, Mississippi, March 6, 1864
I. General Hurlbut will, out of his First and Third Divisions, make up a command of about 7,500 infantry, with two good batteries of artillery, the whole under command of Brigadier General A. J. Smith, to embark on the 7th and 8th instant on board of transports, with thirty days’ rations, and provided for an expedition up Red River. Only two ambulances per regiment and one for each battery and one wagon for each headquarters will be taken along, and the remaining wagons and sick will be left at Vicksburg, to be taken care of until the command returns to Vicksburg.
II. General McPherson will in like manner make up a command of about 2,500 men, with one good battery, under a brigadier of rank inferior to that of General A. J. Smith, prepared in like manner to embark on boats on the 7th and 8th instant, the general in command to report in person to General A. J. Smith, who will receive full and minute instructions from the general commanding.
III. Corps commanders will at once order a part of the re-enlisted regiments of their corps to their respective States where organized, for a furlough of thirty days therein, with full instructions as to procuring additional recruits and rejoining their proper brigades with dispatch on the expiration of their furloughs. The officers and soldiers thus sent on furloughs should be impressed with the importance of their return on time, as military plans can only be based on a positive knowledge of numbers and time.
IV. Brigadier-General Veatch’s command will proceed via Cairo and the Tennessee River, with all its men, guns, transportation, and materials, to join the command of General Dodge at or near Athens, Alabama.
V. The chief quartermaster of the department will provide the necessary transportation to carry out these orders and those issued February 28, 1864.
By order of Major General W. T. Sherman:
L. M. DAYTON, Aide-de-Camp