HEADQUARTERS DISTRICT OF EASTERN ARKANSAS,
Devall's Bluff, January 18, 1863.
GENERAL: On yesterday we took, and my command now occupy, this point. I found the railroad from here to Little Rock in good running order, a train having been here the day before we arrived. They have 2 locomotives, 2 passenger cars, and 12 platform cars. Three of the latter we have here.
I captured here two 8-inch Columbiads in good order, with carriages complete; 90 new Enfield rifles, and 25 prisoners, including a master's mate of the rebel Navy.
Our approach was sudden and rapid, and on arriving in sight two companies of infantry, who were here busily engaged in getting the tow large guns on the cars, ran at once and scattered into the woods. My infantry, which had been landed below and sent to their rear, caught all except those who took the Des Arc road and concealed themselves in the woods. My cavalry was landed at once, and penetrated the road 7 miles on the Little Rock road, until the mud and water became utterly impassable. I started a gunboat and some infantry early this morning up the river to Des Arc, where I hope to capture a train engaged in transporting supplies to Little Rock, and perhaps a quantity of corn, oats, and other forage.
Hindman with his forces are at Little Rock, having arrived there last Monday [12th]. General Henry [E.] McCulloch is believed to be at Pine Bluff. General Hawes, with three regiments of cavalry and six pieces of light artillery, was ordered to re-enforce Post Arkansas, and started last Sunday [11th] on a forced march, but only got as far as Hick's railroad station, 3 miles from Brownsville, and is supposed now to be on the west side of the Arkansas.
All the forces of the enemy except two, or possibly three, companies of bushwhackers are west of the Arkansas River, and the people are running their stock and negroes toward Texas. It seems to be quite sure that their army does not intend to fight at Little Rock.
If it were possible for me to get cavalry across this low, marshy country to Brownsville and Little Rock, I would start them at once; but this and melting, and Grand Prairie is one vast sheet of water, precluding the least possible hope of getting across to Little Rock with either infantry, artillery, or cavalry until the rainy season is over and the country, which is a vast level plain, dries off. If it were possible to get cavalry across the prairie, the enemy would cut the bridges over the Bayou Metoe and smaller streams, now much swollen, and stop our progress.
In obedience to your orders, I sent a force of cavalry, 1,200 strong, from Helena to Clarendon. Since their arrival at Clarendon the rain has fallen to such an extent as to fill the vast bayous, &c., to such proportions as to make it a serious question whether I shall be able to save the horses, as I have not sufficient transportation to take them out by water, and forage cannot be had, for like causes, except by the river.
General McClernand has ordered me to send him General Fisk's brigade, which I will have to do, as General Grant has authority to take him. I will, therefore, be compelled to leave this point and go below, as I shall be so crippled as to leave me utterly powerless. I was weakened before by the withdrawal of one regiment at New Madrid and one at Memphis, and then was required to have a garrison of 2,000 men at Helena. I have left a regiment of 800 infantry, two companies of cavalry, and one battery at Saint Charles, and now I am called on to part