as to the number of troops in Port Hudson may or may not be correct, and a rebel brigade is by no means a constant quantity, and may mean from 4,000 men, upward or downward, but it appears to me that we should move with all speed to the rear of Port Hudson. From the numerous details that have been made, and the large number sick, it is difficult to estimate accurately our strength and the precise disposition of our forces, but it is not far from following:
Location. Infantry. Cavalr Artill Total.
At Simsport, Third 5,200 400 600 6,200
Division and Fourth
With Weitzel 3,200 300 300 3,800
With Chickering and 2,800 --- 40 2,840
Total 11,200 700 940 12,840
The above does not include the troops at Brasher and Butte-a-la-Rose (two regiments). The total number of pieces of artillery is fifty, viz, thirty-two here at Samsport, sixteen with Weitzel, and two with Chickering. By sending up at once all the available transports, I think the force we now have here could be landed at Bayou Sara within four or five days. The most expeditious was of doing this appears to me to be to cross over the artillery first, with enough infantry to protect it; next cross over the baggage, and send it down the road toward Morganza as soon as circumstances will permit; meanwhile to send up all transports available, use in addition the gunboats, and, taking on board all the infantry and two batteries of artillery, with a supply of rations, land them directly at Bayou Sara; then cross over the rest of the artillery and the baggage train from the ferry, landing opposite Bayou Sara. In order, however, for the commodore to co-operate, some hard coal must be sent up immediately. If you should order Chickering's force to guard the train at Brashear, some order will have to be sent to Hill at Barre's Landing, directing what shall be done with the reserve ammunition which is there. Probably will have to be sent here by transports, and the wagons designed to carry it sent to Brashear; this would, however, deprive us of their use in the field. The intention was to have had the ammunition escorted here by Chickering's force, via Holmesville. I can only cross over the forces from Simsport to this side as rapidly as possible, and improve the means of crossing until I hear from you. I trust you will return speedily.
I am, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
[GEO. L. ANDREWS,]
Brigadier-General of Volunteers, and Chief of Staff.
HDQRS. DEPT. OF THE GULF, NINETEENTH ARMY CORPS,
Sims' Plantation, May 17, 1863.
Commodore JAMES S. PALMER,
Commanding, &c., Flag-ship Hartford:
COMMODORE: In the absence of the general commanding, I have the honor to inclose for your information the copy of a dispatch received to-night by the Sachem from General Dwight.*
*Not found; but see Irwin to Banks, p.489.