War of the Rebellion: Serial 021 Page 0315 Chapter XXVII. OPERATIONS IN WEST LOUISIANA.

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rather to have co-operate with you to secure that end. Meeting the enemy, however, as I did, south of Port Gibson, I followed him to the Big Black, and could not afford to retrace my steps. * * * Many days cannot elapse before the battle will begin which is to decide the fate of Vicksburg, but it is impossible to predict how long it may last. I would urgently request therefore that you join me or send all the force you can spare to co-operate in the great struggle for opening the Mississippi River.

It would be utterly impossible for me to join General Grant before Vicksburg. I have not the transportation to do so, and if I had, to take my men to him would involve, besides the abandonment of our trains and all of the negroes, horses, mules, cotton, and supplies that we have collected in this country, the probable loss of New Orleans in any event, and its certain fall in case of disaster to us above. I cannot leave Port Hudson and Mobile in my rear.

Had General Grant aided me to take Port Hudson, our forces united could have compelled the fall of Vicksburg sooner than I think he will be able to do it alone, and an operation which is now uncertain would have been rendered certain.

As Grant's troops are not to be at Bayou Sara I cannot get transportation enough to cross my trains at that point. After reaching the Mississippi opposite Bayour Sara with a force which, reduced by the immense and incessant marches we have made and would have still to make, would then be inferior to that of the enemy, my only chance would be to cross the river with five days' rations, and endeavor to establish communications with Baton Rouge. We should have to place everything upon remote contingencies, which failing would destroy us.

I am reluctantly forced tot he conclusion that there is now only one thing left us-to retrace our steps to Banton Rouge over the 400 miles that we have come and to operate upon Port Hudson unaided. I shall do that at once.

I have the honor to be, general, very respectfully, your most obedient servant,

N. P. BANKS,

Major-General, Commanding.

Major General H. W. HALLECK,

General-in-Chief, Washington, D. C.

[Inclosure No. 1.]

HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF THE TENNESSEE,

Rocky Springs, Miss., May 10, 1863.

Major General N. P. BANKS,

Commanding Department of the Gulf:

GENERAL: My advance will occupy to-day Utica, Auburn, and a point equally advanced toward the Mississippi Southern Railroad between the latter place and the Big Black. It was my intention, on gaining a foothold at Grand Gulf, to have sent a sufficient force to Port Hudson to have insured the fall of that place with your co-operation or rather to have co-operated with you to secure that end.d

Meeting the enemy, however, as I did, south of Port Gibson, I followed him to the Big Black, and could not afford to retrace my steps. I also learned, and believe the information to be reliable, that Port Hudson is almost entirely evacuated. This may not be true, but it is the concurrent testimony of deserters and contrabands.

Many days cannot elapse before the battle will begin which is to decide the fate of Vicksburg, but it is impossible to predict how long it may last. I would urgently request therefore that you join me or