the 10th November last has happily resulted in no of men or animals. There has been a misunderstanding of orders between Captain Whitney and Captain Pell, assistant adjutant-general, at Sioux City, as to the proper course to be pursued by the former with his command, and I have directed Captain Whitney to make an immediate and accurate report of all the facts for transmission to you. Captain Whitney may have erred in his construction of the orders given, him,but he is an excellent and reliable officer, and I am satisfied that any mistake made by him has been the result of a want of experience rather than of intention to disobey the orders of his superiors. He has received no orders department headquarters other than those transmitted through these headquarters before his departure.
I am, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
H. H. SIBLEY,
WASHINGTON, January 4, 1864.
Commanding Department of the Gulf:
GENERAL: Your dispatch of December 23 is just received.* I had hoped to be able to send you re-enforcements from the Department of the South, but for reasons not necessary to explain here it was determined to retain the forces in front of Charleston to co-operate with the navy. The troops in North Carolina are reported as barely sufficient to maintain the defensive. Every man not deemed necessary by General Meade to oppose Lee was sent to Chattanooga and East Tennessee. The only other resource was the West. General Steele's forces, in Arkansas, were directed to advance toward Shreveport so as to co-operate with you on Red River. He went as far as Arkadelphia, when, hearing of your movement into Western Texas, he deemed it unsafe to attempt alone the occupation of the line of Red River. General Grant was urged to send back to there Mississippi River a part of his command as soon as he could spare the troops. General Sherman has been detached for that purpose and he will move down the river as rapidly as practicable. He is instructed to give you all the aid in his power. I have also ordered to New Orleans several detached regiments and batteries both in the West and in the East.
I enter into these details in order that you may know that no efforts have been spared to give you all possible assistance. Generals Sherman and Steele agree with me in opinion that the Red River is the shortest and best line of defense of Louisiana and Arkansas and as a base of operation s against Texas. If this line can be adopted most of the troops in Arkansas can be concentrated on it; but, as before remarked, Steele cannot alone attempt its occupation. His movements must, therefore, be dependent in a great measure upon yours. If as soon as you have sufficient water in the Atchafalaya and Red Rivers you operate in that direction, Steele's army and such forces as Sherman can detach should be directed to the same object. The gun-boat should also co-operate. If on the other hand you operations are mainly confined to the coast of Texas, Steele must make the
*See Vol. XXVI, Part I, p. 871.