JACKSON, TENN., March 4, 1863.
My latest information places Van Dorn at Columbia. His force may be scattered all along the river for miles. He has no intention of crossing the Tennessee River in force, but may send a conscripting force over. He lost at Columbia all his corn and quartermaster's stores, and is now employed in foraging. I will send immediately to the river and find out his plans. The river is high enough for gunboats to protect the crossing. If he should be foolhardy enough to attempt a raid, he must not be allowed to recross.
JER. C. SULLIVAN.
UNITED STATES Mississippi SQUADRON, March 5, 1863.
Major General U. S. GRANT,
Comdg. Army of the Mississippi:
GENERAL: I send you a letter received from Lieutenant-Commander Selfridge, of the U. S. Steamer Conestoga, which may prove interesting to you.
Respectfully, your, &c.,
DAVID D. PORTER.
U. S. STEAMER CONESTOGA,
Off Napoleon, March 1, 1863.
Actg. Rear-Admiral DAVID D. PORTER,
Commanding Mississippi Squadron"
SIR: Two deserters from [T. C.] Hindman's army at Pine Bluff came on board last night. They estimate the total efficient force in Arkansas as not exceeding 15,000; that from the difficulty in obtaining subsistence, it was determined to withdraw the major part of the army across the Mississippi. These men had been employed as teamsters about headquarters of their regiment. The route originally intended was to take the troops down the Washita to Monroe, and thence to Vicksburg. As this avenue is now closed, I am half inclined to believe they may try to carry them across in this vicinity. The Prairie Bird, at White River, would not be much of an obstacle, as I could not assist him in time if they come down the Arkansas. Whether I should be able to beat them off remains to be seen. I shall ram them rather than trust to the uncertainty of disabling them with my guns.
One of these deserters states that about a week ago he heard some of the officers talk about fitting up a steamer with cotton bales, but did not know whether anything had been done toward it.
We are all anxious to know the fate of the Indianola, and I trust her loss will be but a temporary inconvenience.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
THIS. O. SELFRIDGE,
HEADQUARTERS SEVENTEENTH ARMY CORPS,
Lake Providence, La., March 5, 1863.
Commanding Department of the Tennessee:
GENERAL: The steam dredging boat Hercules has just this moment arrived here, and, in accordance with your instructions, I have ordered the captain of the steamboat Niagara to tow it down to Young's Point.