till about 2 p. m. Sunday, 1st instant. At the time of landing I was prostrated from a severe bilious attack, which had set in almost immediately on our leaving the fleet, and from which I have not yet recovered.
Immediately on landing, Colonel Deitzler disembarked and occupied the remainder of the day in making a partial reconnaissance of the relative positions of the lake and river, returning without coming to any definite conclusion as to the place best suited to make the connection, but fully convinced that a connection was entirely practicable.
Yesterday morning a party of 80 mounted men, under the command of Colonel Deitzler, and accompanied by Lieutenant [Herman A.] Ulffers, Captain [Thomas E.] Smith, of the gunboat, and myself (though still very sick), made the entire circuit of the lake, taking the course along the bayou, on the upper side of the lake, as per accompanying chart,* and returning to Providence across Bayou Tensas.
The bayou on the upper side of the lake, although very easily connected with the river, and, as far as depth of water is concerned, better than the canal finally decided upon, is too crooked and much obstructed by timber to be made available for navigation for several weeks, while the course of the proposed canal upon which we are now working is short, and the work can be done within a week, nature having already done the best part of it, and when completed it will would admit of passing through Bayou Tensas or Baxter. Either plan involves the destruction of the town (now nearly deserted), but neither Colonel Deitzler nor myself though this a matter of sufficient importance to interfere with the accomplishment of the object in view. On our reconnaissance yesterday we passed down thensas Bayou about a mile, and found it navigable. To make sure, however, whether Tensas or Baxter is best suited for our purpose, a strong reconnoitering party has gone out to-day, which has not yet returned. One of these outlets being decided upon as the best, the other, we propose, if possible, to close before admitting the water from the river. In any event, I do not doubt the entire practicability, during high water, of passing with such vessels as the mosquito fleet from the Mississippi and the Red River. We have heard, however, of a battery on the Washita, near Monroe, planted there with a view to the defense of extensive salt-works in that part of rebeldom and the army in Mississippi and Arkansas are supplied with that indispensable article.
On this subject I hope to be better informed in a few days, when I will immediately advise you. I have sanguine hopes, shared in by Colonel Deitzler, that the general commanding may authorize an expedition to destroy these salt-works, should the information we have from negroes be confirmed.
I should mention that yesterday we met with no obstacles from guerrillas. A few fleeing horsemen were chased, when they dismounted and took to the swamps, leaving their horses and arms, which were captured. We have also driven in some beef-cattle.
Trusting that so much as has been done will meet the approval of the major-general commanding, I remain, colonel, yours, very respectfully,
W. L. DUFF,
Lieutenant-Colonel, Chief of Artillery, Dept. of the Tennessee.