leans, my assistance would be insignificant, not enough to counter-balance the disadvantage occasioned by such movements of the enemy in this quarter as would follow the withdrawal of my troops. I can only send you men; the materiel of my army will be without transportation. I can use only such boats as can come through Grand Lake, which only allows at this stage of water 5 or 6 feet, and they are few in number.
Colonel Riggin will inform you what my force is, how much less than you imagine, and how slight the aid must be that it is in my power to give you.
When I cam to Port Hudson, it was with the understanding from General Dwight's report that you could assist us in its reduction
if it did not fall before my force alone. It is unexpectedly strong, not stronger than I had supposed, but stronger than anybody here would for a moment admit. We can reduce it, if uninterrupted, in the course of a week or ten days. With 10,000 men in addition, we could carry it in three days.
If we hold Murfreesborough, Vicksburg, and Port Hudson at the same time, the enemy will beat us all in detail, and the campaign of the WEST will end like the campaigns of the East, in utter and disgraceful defeat before an inferior enemy. I cannot move my force to you in time or strength to be of service, for want of transportation. If you can aid me by the assistance of 8,000 or 10,000 men for a few days only, I shall be relieved. This I am confident is the only method of obtaining success. It is in accordance with your original proposition, and the view upon which I have made all my movements. I had expected to meet your troops here on the 25th of May, in accordance with your letter and dispatch, and, had I been so fortunate, should now have been on my way to Vicksburg.
What is required at this juncture of our affairs is a bold action on one side or the other. That which promises greatest result, at the least cost of time and strength, is for your to aid us. You can hold your position for a few days against any enemy, or, if obliged to bend your line a little to giveill recover at once, and destroy the enemy thus seduced to your camp. Unless we succeed on the river, the war goes over to another year. By the concentration of our forces, even at some risk, we shall succeed.
That concentration is absolutely dependent upon the fall of Port Hudson. I beg you to consider this, and render us your aid. Do not send a few thousand men, because it costs time. Let us have 10,000, and we will rush to you with all our power. I can furnish the transportation, because we want nothing but the men and muskets, and can use for this purpose the vessels of the fleet. The decision should be immediate.
Colonel Grierson's cavalry is of great importance. It is now the only cavalry force we have. He has rendered us great service, and his immediate departure will entirely cripple us. I hope to avoid a separation from him by joining you at the same time he moves, upon the plan I have suggested.
I inclose a memorandum* of the heavy artillery I can bring with my corps, if relieved here in addition to the 15,000 men I can give you. Much exhausted and ill, I feel I have not stated as I ought the strength of my case, but I am sure you will feel its importance, though it be not clearly expressed.
I have the honor to be, with great respect, your obedient servant,
N. P. BANKS.