NEW MADRID, March 21, 1862.
Have found place for canal across peninsula. Two bayous head near together, one running into the Mississippi at Island 8, the other about 2 miles above New Madrid. A canal 500 yards long through Cypress Swamp will connect them. Work will be commenced to-morrow. By Monday night will have two steam-tugs and five barges here if all goes well. Route has been carefully examined and is practicable. If enemy are opposite here Wednesday next they will be ours. Gunboats have made no impression and I think will not. Commodore Foote positively declines to run any of his gunboats past enemy's batteries. They are firing at long range, with only enemy's artillerists in sight. River still rising rapidly; whole country northeast of us overflowed, except causeway to Sikeston.
HEADQUARTERS DISTRICT OF THE MISSISSIPPI,
New Madrid, March 21, 1862.
I transmit inclosed a very rough sketch of the situation here.* What is on the other side of the river is of course from hearsay. My great object is to get across the river, which I shall do as soon as possible. I expect the tugs and barges here by the canal on Monday.
The value of our gunboat flotilla has been altogether overestimated. As an auxiliary merely to land forces, to escort transports, to reconnoiter in advance of our movements, and to cover the landing of troops, gunboats can de admirable service. They cannot take any sort of battery on the shore, as I think you will find. The enemy's gunboats have wholly failed to dislodge even the hasty batteries and rifle pits I have made. After five days' bombarding Commodore Foote has made no sort of impression. Nothing but the gunners and a few infantry have been left opposite island Numbers 10. My impression is that the enemy is trying very hard to get off by river from Tiptonville. they have a very small supply of rations, and the country in the bend is very sparsely settled. One of their transports was sunk yesterday by our lower battery in attempting to make a landing just below Tiptonville. It is a bare possibility that the men, by paddling down the swamps on logs and wading where they can, may get off on boats below, but it will be without anything whatever. I have closed every exit from the bend by way of the river as far as guns will do it. The means of crossing are all I need. It would be of immense service for such operations on this river if you would send me the 20-pounder Parrotts. There are four at Jefferson Barracks and I suppose more in the city. One battery of them is at Sedalia or Lexington, and can well be spared from there. The 20-pounder parrotts are better and more effective than the siege twenty-fours, and can be used as field batteries. The river is high and rising and is nowhere less than a mile wide; in most parts it is at least a mile and a quarter. I will do all that is possible to keep things going.
I am, general, respectfully, your obedient servant,