Coldwater and Tallahatchee? Have you further intelligence of the reported movement toward Aberdeen, as a SECOND point for defense and obstruction to enemy's boats? How does Ellis' Cliff compare with Grand Gulf? What success in raising the Indianola? What is the stage of the Mississippi; is it rising or falling at Vicksburg?
HEADQUARTERS, Petersburg, Va., March 10, 1863.
Honorable JAMES A. SEDDON,
Secretary of War:
SIR: When I had an interview with you a few days since, you did me the honor to request that I should submit my views on the subject of defending the Mississippi River against the enemy's transports. the counties of Coahoma, Bolivar, Washington, and Issaquena present the best field for this purpose. In the counties of Bolivar and Washington, at every few miles distance the river impinges in its windings against the banks, and in those cases the channel is near the shore, and there the banks are precipitous, and mostly outside the levee the timber and cane are standing in dense growth to the verge of the river, affording complete means to conceal artillery and sharpshooters from discovery; indeed, it would be impossible for boats to ascertain where any such force was placed until they opened their fire. At other places, where the country is open, the leaves afford a good breastwork, behind which artillery could be placed, and protected from the fire of gunboats. In these two counties I speak from a knowledge of the shore, having ridden along it for many miles, especially in Bolivar. I am quite sure, with an adequate force of infantry, a cavalry regiment, and good artillery, the enemy's transports could be very much annoyed, and their passage up and down the river almost entirely stopped, unless convoyed by a number of gunboats at all times.
2. The next question is, what force is necessary for this week? It should be large enough to accomplish the object intended, and be self-supporting; and I would recommend a brigade of six full regiments of light infantry, armed with rifles, one regiment of cavalry, and six batteries of artillery-two of Napoleon guns, two of 10-pounder Parrott guns, one of 20-pounder Parrotts, and one of Whitworth guns, if possible. A few signalmen should also be with the command, and a skillful chief of artillery.
The objective points are, distance from support, the climate, the force of the enemy at Memphis and Helena, and the army operating against Vicksburg. The enemy, having command of the river and innumerable transports in their service, can move nearly 200 miles in twenty-four hours, and thus have it in their power to land an attacking force in large numbers without timely notice of their approach; therefore it is the force should be either large and self-supporting, or very small, and only for the purpose of harassing the enemy and then eluding his vigilance. The main body of the artillery should not be scattered, but concentrated, so that its fire would be very destructive, but it should move frequently from point to point. The approaches to the river from the interior are but few, so far as I am aware. Deer Creek can be approached by two roads from Yazoo County; first, from Yazoo City, by Panther and Silver Creeks, by Strait Bayou, thence to Buck's Ferry, on the Sunflower River, striking the Vicksburg and Deer Creek road; SECOND, following the Yazoo bank for 27 miles to Burtoma, thence 22 miles to Latham's Ferry, on the Sunflower, some 40 miles above Buck's Ferry.