HEADQUARTERS MISSISSIPPI RIVER EXPEDITION,
Steamer Tigress, Milliken's Bend, Mississippi River, Jan. 3, 1863.
Honorable E. M. STANTON,
Secretary of War:
SIR: Notwithstanding your order of October 21, 1862, authorizing the Mississippi River Expedition and assigning me to the command of the same, I have reason to suppose that prior to my dispatch of the 16th [17th] of December, 1862, informing you that I believed I had been superseded, Major-General Halleck, General-in-Chief, had assigned Major-General Grant to the same command.
On the 21st ultimo Major-General Halleck assistant adjutant-general communicated to me a copy of a telegram to Major-General Grant, dated December 18, 1862, assigning the latter to the general command of the expedition and me to the immediate command of the land forces composing the same. This, as far as I can recollect, was the first and only recognition, and that an indirect one, which the General-in-Chief had ever made of my connection with the expedition, and I attribute that to your interference as a consequence of my telegram of the 16th [17th] to you and the President, touching my supersedure.
A portion of the forces designed for the expedition having been detached from General Grant's army and marched to Memphis by General Sherman, preparatory to embarkation for Vicksburg, prior to the 16th ultimo, it would appear conclusively that Generals Grant and Sherman had received orders in the premises prior to that date. Moreover, it is worthy of especial notice that General Sherman started with the expedition from Memphis on the 20th ultimo, and that not until the second day after-the 22d-did I receive notice of Major-General Halleck's telegram to General Grant.
On the 23rd I was relieved from duty at Springfield, Ill., and immediately started south to find and receive order from General Grant, according to your instructions. Arriving at Memphis on Sunday, the 28th, I immediately dispatched Major Schwartz and Captain Freeman, of my staff, across the country, which was infested by guerrilla bands, to communicate with General Grant at Holly Springs, 45 miles from Memphis. Reaching there the same night these officers were informed that orders, assigning me to the immediate command of the expedition had been forwarded on the same day. These orders reached me on Monday, the 29th, one day after the repulse of our forces near Vicksburg,and before I had had time to leave Memphis. This explanation is made for the purpose of establishing the fact that either through the intention of the General-in-Chief or a strange occurrence of accidents, the authority of the President and yourself, as evidenced by your acts, has been set a naught, and I have been deprived of the command that had been committed to me.
I will not say that in consequence of this circumstance the Mississippi River Expedition has so far failed, for that would do injustice to General Sherman, whom I deem, indeed know, to be a brave and meritorious officer. He has probably done all in the present case that any one could have done, and I would not detract anything from him, but give him all credit for good purposes, which unfortunately failed in execution.
The explanation of the failure is simply this:
1st. Much valuable time was lost in setting the expedition on foot, and thus ample opportunity was furnished to the enemy to prepare himself and strongly fortify against attack.