War of the Rebellion: Serial 025 Page 0383 Chapter XXIX. CORRESPONDENCE, ETC.-UNION.

Search Civil War Official Records

HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF THE MISSOURI,

Saint Louis, December 4, 1862.

Major General H. W. HALLECK, General-in-Chief:

GENERAL: Your telegram inquiring how much force I can furnish for a down-river expedition was illegible until yesterday. I responded by telegraph, "20,000."

In this I propose to give all my available force to the primary object of opening the Mississippi, leaving at Helena only enough to hold that point, deferring any and all interior movements until the main down-river forces can be returned. Nothing of great importance can be done interior from Helena until we have boats to run and hold position on the White, Arkansas, Washita, and Red Rivers, and especially that we hold the months of these rivers. Up to a very recent period the rebels have had the constant or general possession of the months of all these great arteries of the Trans-Mississippi country. While the enemy can run gunboats on these rivers, wagon trains cannot support a military force beyond; and therefore Little Rock should not be taken until after the Mississippi is taken, and gunboats of proper draught can be used on the White and Arkansas.

With this view as to my department, I fell that the down-river movements is of the first importance, not only to your entire command in the West, but to this department especially.

Knowing also your views of the primary move as avowed a year ago I am ready to lend all my lines of operations to the river movement and put all available force in that column. But I do not wish to lose all control of the force; or rather I suppose it is to be immediately available in my department when the main trunk is opened or so much as may seem necessary and proper for my command.

I shall leave only about 5,000 at Helena, and strip all the eastern portion of my command to do this, leaving only what seems absolutely necessary to guard prisoners and keep the peace in the country.

I write this to explain my understanding of your wishes. I will send General Steele with the troops and place General Gorman in command at Helena, hoping he will make a better administrative officer than General Steele, and believing General Steele will prefer to go with the troops.

If I am to properly organize and equip my portion of down-river force I wish to be so instructed, and of course I would like to command them. I have earned a name in rebel lines which, without arrogance, I claim to have some influence against them. But I have never asked for specialties and will take any position assigned me without a murmur. All I ask is that I may not be prejudiced by ex-parte presentation of my acts and intentions.

I have the honor, general, to remain, your obedient servant,

SAML. R. CURTIS,

Major-General.

HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF THE MISSOURI,

Saint Louis, Mo., December 4, 1862.

Major General H. W. HALLECK, Washington, D. C.:

GENERAL: Your dispatch of to-day expressing your regret that I have moved General Steele into Mississippi without authority, and saying, also, "there must be no further evasion of the orders for this concentration," is a surprise and most painful reproach. I carefully planned