Vicksburg from succumbing, for, since the departure of General Breckinridge's division, there has never been a day on which a successful land attack might not have been made by the force at Helena; but it is not right to calculate that they will continue inactive, nor fair to the interests involved to hold the place by sufferance.
The case is as follows: Above us, and within thirty hours' easy run of this place, are encamped 15,000 men, commanded by an experienced officer of the Regular Army, with a naval force at his control of some seven shot-proof rams and fourteen to eighteen gunboats positively know to be present, and doubtless more that could be obtained. According to information, there could be spared from New Orleans at this present time 8,000 men for any expedition undertaken, and this force might reach here in four days from the time known to have started. Suppose either of these expeditions start for this point, what is there to oppose them here? I have about 1,800 infantry, 200 cavalry, and six light batteries (two of these under orders to march), all partially drilled, but none ever under fire on the field. If attacked, this force could be increased in five or six days by 400 cavalry of like discipline, and about the same number of State Minute-men. If not threatened from New Orleans, a small increase might be expected from the direction of Lake Pontchartrain, say 500 men; in a word, if I can keep seven times my number at bay for nearly a week, a re-enforcement of 1,500 may be expected-making 3,500 against 15,000.
Now, I am willing to run any risk with my command the times demand, and, if it is necessary to guard this exposed point with a handful of men, there is nothing more to be said; but I repeat that, in my opinion, the interests involved here are too great to be left to chance, and it is felt as a duty to represent in decided terms that this point is in danger, and that we can be literally overwhelmed by the enemy at any moment. Should there be a combined attack from above and below, there is not a possibility of saving it, and but a faint probability if attacked only from above.
It will be perceived that the foregoing statement leaves no infantry force to cover the heavy batteries, if attacked by the gunboat fleet and a landing attempted.
I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
M. L. SMITH,
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE WEST TENNESSEE,
Holly Springs, October 23, 1862.
Major General EARL VAN DORN:
SIR: I have the honor to report that the sanitary condition of the army under your command is not rapidly improving. The exposure incidental to the late exhausting marches and terrific battles did in great measure produce considerable sickness. Most of the sick have been removed to the general hospitals in the rear, on and convenient to the railroads. The conduct of the medical department has not been such as I would altogether desire, but allowance must be made for the great confusion incidental to the rapid organization of your command, its celerity of movement to the attack, and the disorganization which ensued form the engagements of the 3d, 4th and 5th of the present month. Proper return are now completed, and will be forwarded to the Surgeon-General's Office at the earliest practicable moment. Not-