We believe that a force of about 7,000 of the enemy has left Arkansas River to join Kirby Smith at Shreveport, leaving the Washita at Pine Bluff, near Monroe; then to come down the Red River to Grand Ecore, is undoubtedly a Texan column on the road to join them. My advance is now 60 miles above Alexandria. The only course for me, failing in co-operation with you, is to regain the Mississippi and attack Port Hudson or to move against the enemy at Shreveport. Port Hudson is reduced in force, but not as you are informed. It has now 10,000 men and is very strongly fortified. This is the report of Admiral Farragut, whose fleet is above and below the works.
I regret very much my inviability to join you. I have written Colonel Grierson that you desire him to join you, and have added my won request to yours. Captain Ulffers goes to Baton Rouge to communicate with him.
Wishing you all possible success, and feeling that you have all the prayers of our people, I have the honor to be, with sincere respect, your obedient servant,
N. P. BANKS,
HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF THE GULF,
Alexandria, La., May 13, 1863.
Contrary to my dispatches of yesterday, thorough reconnaissances made by Major Huston and Lieutenant Harwood satisfy me that it is possible for my command to join General Grant at Vicksburg.* I shall make every sacrifice and hazard everything to accomplish this object with the least possible delay, believing that the concentration of our armies is the vital point necessary for the useccess of our cause.
My command will move to Simmesport to-day, making that the basis of our operations, and hope to reach Grand Gulf by the aid of such transports as we can command and the naval vessels now in the Mississippi.
Brigadier-General Weitzel, in command of the division on the Shreveport road (nearly 70 miles above Alexandria), reports that the retreating forces of the enemy is reduced to about 1,200 men and that the expectation of an increase of their forces from Arkansas and Texas has no substantial foundation. This relieves our apprehension hitherto entertained from that quarter. I send this by telegraph to reach the mail steamer.
We hear reports that the force from General Hunter's command is on its way and hope it is true. It will relieve our fears as to New Orleans.
I have the honor to be, with much respect, your obedient servant,
N. P. BANKS,
Washington, D. C.
[For General Banks' report, covering operations December 16, 1862-July 8, 1863, see Series I, Vol. XXVI.]
*See also Banks to Farragut and Grant same date in "Correspondence, etc.," post.