I suppose Adjutant-General Thomas is with you, and, if so, confer with him an let him have the blacks, namely, and such as are not in actual occupation of the at Vicksburg an Natchez.
When the Marine Brigade return from Red River it also should receive orders as indicated by General Grant. In the meanwhile such of the marine boats as have not gone up Red River can cover the plantations from Vicksburg up as high as Greenville. I inclose
herewith a letter for General Thomas, which you can read and cause to be delivered.
I have reflected on the proposition you made me before leaving Vicksburg, and will adopt it substantially. After you have satisfied yourself that no force but Jackson's cavalry followed us back to this side of Pearl River, you may furlough all your veterans, and dispose the remainder as garrisons for Vicksburg and Natchez; place good commanders at each place, then in person come to Memphis and give minute returns of each to General Hurlbut, whom we will leave to command the District of the Mississippi, embracing that of Memphis and Vicksburg; then proceed to Cairo, where you can leave some of your staff to receive and organize your veteran regiments as they return, when you may take a twenty day's leave, getting back to cairo in time to make two divisions of about 10,000 men, which I will order up the Tennessee and across from Savannah to Pulaski and Huntsville. I will give you four Numbers 1 divisions, and if times out here justify it I will draw further to embrace General A. J. Smith's division. I will leave Hurlbut here until you come up, and if the garrisons left at Vicksburg and Natchez seem small I will instruct General Hurlbut to stop General Tuttle's division at Vicksburg, and bring General A. J. Smith here, when the Red River trip comes out. I send this a bearer of dispatches, who will bring me your answers; I await them here. Make the figures as exact as possible. I think General Hurlbut will be required, as commander on the river, to make his headquarters at Vicksburg. I want your opinion on this. I dislike to break up corps, but can's help it.
Truly your friend,
W. T. SHERMAN,
Major-General, Commanding Department.
HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF THE TENNESSEE,
Memphis, March 11, 1864.
Brigadier General LORENZO THOMAS,
Adjutant-General, u. S. Army, Vicksburg, Miss.:
DEAR GENERAL; I have a letter from General Grant, of date March 4, a copy of which I send by bearer dispatch to General McPherson, and which is subject to your perusal. I have ordered General McPerson accordingly. I wanted to see you, and am sorry I missed you. I fear you think I do not protect lasses of plantations. I know my action inland and the move up Yazoo more effectually covered the east bank of the Mississippi River above Vicksburg than could have been done 10,000 troops on its very banks.
I know also a similar disposition up Washita would in like manner cover the west bank from Red River up the Arkansas. I shall still advise the perfection of the plan. Osband's force at Skipwith's and Hawkins' at Goodrich's may have protected a radius each of, say, 19 or 15 miles, but no more; whereas by putting Hawkin's brigade