and taken several prisoners. They all say that they do not regret being taken, and answer our questions promptly in regard to the preparations being made to defend Little Rock. They say Kirby Smith is at Bayou Meto and Price at Little Rock, both fortifying. Smith's troops had not arrived at Little Rock three days ago. I have guides, men well acquainted with the country, who say they think that if we follow Bayou Meto to near the Arkansas, we can cross and turn the fortifications. Davidson's division finished crossing over White to-day. We had to build a corduroy road for 2 miles across the bottom on the other side. Harris' Ferry, 7 miles below, is a better landing, and there is a good road out from the river, but there are several bayous intervening between her and there on this side. We shall, therefore, cross everything over here, and reach the prairie on the other side as soon as possible. We have several hundred sick, including those of Davidson's division, and shall establish a hospital at this place, so near the river that it will be under cover of the gunboats. We shall also leave some stores, to be protected by them. The rebels seem to have withdrawn all their forces from this side, and have nothing near here on the other side, except pickets and outposts. Devall's Bluff is entirely abandoned. They have not yet done any damage to the railroad, and trains have not been heard of since the steamboats were captured by Bache. When we get Little Rock and the railroad, Devall's Bluff will be the point for our depot on the White. On consulting Davidson and his officers in regard to sending a cavalry force to Memphis, along the line of the projected railroad, they all say it is impracticable. All the could not be improvised by a party of cavalrymen, and without something of the sort some of the streams could not be crossed. Everybody with whom I have conversed on the subject reports against the practicability of constructing this road without great labor and at an enormous expense. My guide informs me that he passed over the road, or a large part of it, this season in a boat, and that the water was in many places over the road for several miles in extent 15 feet or over.
I hope you will, after receiving this statement of the facts, excuse me for not communicating with Memphis by cavalry. It would not be safe to send less than two squadrons, and I have not the men to spare, provided it were practicable. You will observe by my returns of the 10th instant that the aggregate of all arms for duty amounts to only 11,790. Many have reported sick on the march, and about 1,000 of the convalescents that were to join us by water have not yet arrived. However, I shall push on, and if the rebels make a determined stand, will use intrenching tools until re-enforcements come up.
Very truly, general, your obedient servant,
HEADQUARTERS DISTRICT OF EASTERN ARKANSAS,
Helena, Ark., August 18, 1863.
Major General FRED. STEELE,
GENERAL: Captain James F. Young, Fifth Kansas, bearer of your dispatches to Major-Generals Grant and Hurlbut, arrived here yesterday, and your dispatches have been promptly forwarded. I still remain without written instructions from you. We are using all possible care and labor to send on your supplies, but our force here is inadequate to