with a view to the transmission especially of mails and of money, for frequent and secure communication with the Trans-Mississippi Department.
It appears to me that this might be effected with reasonable certainty and safety by an understanding between yourself and General Smith for concurrent operations with your cavalry force, or light artillery, on each side of the river. My knowledge of the country induces me to suggest that between about Prentiss, Miss., and some 20 miles south of Memphis, on this side of the river, the country might be commanded, and ready access at various points secured to the river, by cavalry, while the stretch of the opposite bank should be commanded by the forces of General Smith.
Thus, with an understanding had that the various most convenient landings should at different set times be resorted to, a small escort of cavalry could pass in safety mails, messengers, or officers in charge of funds across, to be met by similar escorts on the opposite side. These suggestions are made for your consideration, and are not designed to preclude the adoption of other and better arrangements which your superior knowledge of the country and military experience may recommend. The object is so important that I must ask your early attention to it, and I shall be pleased to receive information of any arrangements made at your earliest convenience. It is not of less importance that the use of the Mississippi River for trade should, if possible, be debarred to the enemy. If this could only be done effectually, it would deprive the North of most of the fruits of their late successes in Mississippi, and perhaps even more effectually than the command of fortified places on the river satisfy the Northwest of the impossibility of ever enjoying the Mississippi as an avenue of trade without peace and amity with the Confederate States. I should think, in the present low state of the water, field artillery with cavalry, under the direction of able and enterprising officers, might find ready access to the bank of the river for hundreds of miles, and render the passage of trading boats entirely impracticable.
I have written to General Smith, urgently pressing on his attention the necessity of similar action on his part. I recommend communication and co-operation between you, and such measures as your judgment may adopt, to effect the speedy and complete stoppage of trade to the enemy on the Mississippi.
With high regard, yours,&c.,
JAMES A. SEDDON,
Secretary of War.
MORTON, MISS., September 11, 1863.
I presume a copy of this letter has been already furnished General Lee, but as there seems to be a doubt on the subject, I transmit it with the wish that every means may be used to carry out the wishes and instructions of the Secretary of War. In the event of an expedition against Memphis, the matter will be suspended till that is accomplished.
W. J. HARDEE,