Thayer's and Blair's brigades, of Steele's DIVISION, on the levee below the canal in the next bend, and Hovey's brigade is at Mrs. Lake's, in reserve.
The road across the swamp is now very bad, and I have ordered four of Steele's regiments to corduroy the whole distance, say, 2 miles. I have never seen men work more grudgingly, and I have endeavored to stimulate them by all means. My first efforts are to widen the canal 9 feet, to increase the volume and power of the current. secondly, to use the earth as parapet, that a comparatively small party of men can guard burg, and to extend the flank in that direction, so as to afford easy access to General Banks if he does pass the forts below. Blair's right flank is now where boats may safely come from below, and if at any time we want to move down the levee, that is the point to start from. I shall continue to give my attention to those points in order, until you indicate some more important work.
In discharging the steamboats I would make each captain sign a bond that he carries away no person who is not part of his crew or a soldier contracted for to be carried by the quartermaster; in the event of his carrying off any deserters, the charter money to be forfeited, subject to the examination of the quartermaster in Memphis. Unless some stringent measures are adopted, many of the men will stick to the boats. I also suggest that Morgan's corps rebuilt that part of the levee carried away near your present headquarters. If the river rises 8 feet, as I feel assured it will very soon, water will overflow this plain, and we will all be in the levee.
Very heavy snow and rains have fallen above us, and floods will come pouring down from White, Arkansas, and may be the Ohio in the next ten days, and may drown us out. If my boats are not discharged of their regimental traps to-night, I am willing that the captains and crews of the boats should put them ashore, and let the boat guard protect them till the regimental commanders send for them. In present condition of the roads, it will be impossible to haul all such property to the respective camps. I want all my surplus baggage, quartermaster's and commissary stores near Mrs. Grove's. Cannot we prevail on her to move? She has no substantial cause for complaint other than the burning of rails, the noise, tumult, and confusion of the mass of men. There is a guard at her house, but the poor woman is distracted and cannot rest. She will soon be as prostrate as her dying daughter. Either the army must move or she. Her grievances cannot be alleviated otherwise.
I am, &c., your obedient servant,
W. T. SHERMAN.
HEADQUARTERS Fifteenth ARMY CORPS,
January 25, 1863-3 a. m.
Major General John A. McClernand:
SIR: It is reported to me by General Blair, Jr., that five of the enemy's transports have dropped down from Vicksburg to a landing on this side, about 1 1/2 miles below him. His own brigade and Thayer's are on that levee, and are as many men as can work there. I will detail four guns (6-pounders) from General Ewing's position, leaving him two 20-pounders and two 30-pounders. Either they design a dash to recover the ferry-boat or they intend to threaten our boats. I will look our for