HEADQUARTERS TRANS-MISSISSIPPI DEPARTMENT,
Shreveport, La., November 23, 1863.
Major General RICHARD TAYLOR, Commanding District of Louisiana:
GENERAL: Your communication of the 18th has been received. The retrograde movement of Franklin has been probably occasioned by the want of supplies. A Chicago paper, the Times, of the 7th November, says he has been left in Louisiana with two corps, the Thirteenth, and I think the Nineteenth, and that he will occupy and hold the lower portion of that State.
Your contemplated expedition into La Fourche district must be carefully considered and conducted with great caution. With Franklin in his present position, it would be hazardous in the extreme. The occupation by us of that country in the present condition of our affairs is of but little military importance; it is an operation attended with great risk. We cannot expect to hold the country, and, should the Atchafalaya rise, the extrication of your force will be a difficult problem. These matters have all presented themselves to your mind, and I only refer to them that they may be well weighed before committing yourself to your proposed campaign.
Major Douglas returns to Alexandria, and will for a time give his personal attention to the defenses and obstructions on Red River. The importance of the Washita as a line of operations in high water, and as a base which the enemy will avail himself of, has doubtless been considered by you. Its bearing on the District of Arkansas is even greater than on that of Louisiana. On Major Douglas' arrival, the question of reoccupying Fort Beauregard and of obstructing the river below Trinity should be considered, and the most practicable course adopted for closing the navigation of Black River to the enemy this winter.
Major Thomas, chief commissary, informs me that 56,000 pounds of flour are now on the way down to your command. Orders have been given for a further supply to be forwarded nd for the establishment of a depot at Natchitoches.
As regards the removal of your force from your district, Id o not think yet that it would be safe or advisable. I understand and thank you for the spirit in which the offer is made, but Franklin's force is formidable, and I believe he will resume operations, with the object of possessing Alexandria this winter.
Great as is my anxiety and desire to drive the Federals from Little Rock and occupy the Arkansas Valley, the season has now too far advanced to avail myself of re-enforcements from your army. Marching now, they would reach Arkansas too late, in any ordinary winter, to operate in that country, their return before spring would be impracticable, and I still cling to the idea that if there are any winter operations by the enemy, the Valley of Red River, in high water, will be the theater selected for their campaign.
I shall leave in a fe days for General Holmes' headquarters, and, though I cannot draw upon you for re-enforcements, shall try and maneuver the enemy out of Little Rock without risking a general engagement.
Holmes has a cavalry force of some 6,000 men. The enemy's supplies are brought by rail from White River, through an almost impassable country. If I had such a man as Green, with that country, I would feel sure of the result.
I am, general, respectfully, your obedient servant,
E. KIRBY SMITH,