Numbers 3. Report of Major General Frederick Steele, U. S. Army, commanding expedition.
DEVALL'S BLUFF, ARK.
August 23, 1863.
GENERAL: Having reconnoitered the different routes, I have decided to commence my line of operations at this point, and have moved the depot and hospital here to-day. The site chosen is a plateau (oak opening), high bluff on the river, and sloping on both sides, on one side a deep ravine. The two gunboats which are can defend the flanks, and an intrenchment can be thrown up in rear which will make the place tolerably secure against any force that will be likely to annoy us while we are pushing the enemy to the front. The buildings here do not amount to much, but there is considerable lumber, and, by sending to Clarendon for more, we can erect tolerable shelter for the sick and the supplies. The sick list is frightful, including many officers. One brigade is commanded by a lieutenant-colonel, two colonels having given up in the last three days. If you do not send re-enforcements I shall very likely meet with a disaster. This is the poorest command that I have ever seen, except the cavalry. More than 1,000 here present are reported unfit for duty, and about one-half of the of the command proper are absent. Davidson is at Deadman's Lake, about 15 miles this side of Brownsville; he was to reconnoiter the latter place in front today. Deserters report that one brigade of Kirby Smith's troops, under Ford, were at Bayou Meto. Everything indicates that the rebels will make a determined resistance at this point. We need four gunboats on this river-one at Saint Charles, two at this point, and one as a convoy. Of those I have now, one is unfit for service and the other three out of repair. White River is at present a better one for the purpose of navigation than the Mississippi; it is falling now, but will rise again next month, and can be depended upon all the time for over 4 feet of water to this point. No matter what steamboatmen say, this is a fact. I refer you to Commander Bache, U. S. Navy, in regard to the fact in the case. No pilot is required. All that is necessary is to keep a boat from running into the banks. With such a base as this, it will be a very easy matter to carry on operations against Little Rock, if proper means be supplied. We hear nothing of General Blunt. Prisoners say General Cooper has fallen back to Little Rock. A Frenchman, from New Orleans, who was at Des Arc, confirms the accounts which I have received from other sources in regard to the strength and intentions of the enemy. He says Marmaduke was peremptorily dismissed the service for allowing our gunboats to capture the two steamers up Little Red.
I have the honor to be, general, very respectfully, you obedient servant,
Major General STEPHEN A. HURLBUT,
Commanding Sixteenth Army Corps, Memphis, Tenn.
P. S.-I have received notice from Helena that there is a supply train from this command waiting there for an escort. Part of this train was sent from Cape Girardeau, and belongs to Davidson's division. I cannot send an escort. The rebels have destroyed the bridge we build over Big Creek. This train would probably be sufficient transportation for another brigade. I think this command has enough already to keep it supplied from this place.