To divert and draw off this force as much as possible, the following plan could be adopted; Every preparation should be made for debarking the troops at Matagorda and transferring them to the mainland. The troops intended to be sent should be designated and collected at New Orleans so as to go aboard at a moment's notice. The steamers should be got ready and the troops assigned; all the heavy material, artillery and horses, be placed on board the light-draught vessels, leaving only men and light stores to be lightened. A demonstration of gun-boats and troops on transports could them be made at Alexandria in moderate force, the effect of which would be to withdraw the enemy from lower Texas. This having been effected the troops at New Orleans should be sent with all dispatch to Texas the forces marched to Houston without delay, and Galveston be invested and the garrison captured, unless they hurriedly evacuated. This would give us entire control of the coast of Texas in a comparatively short time. For subsequent operations
we would not be as well prepared as we would be at Shreveport, with our forces concentrated. The object we started out with would have been accomplished, viz, the possession of the coast. The object proposed by the movement via Shreveport is much greater than the other, and hence requires more time and means. That direct object is no less than the complete destruction or scattering of the rebel army west of the Mississippi, and it will be impracticable to stop short of this result. To attempt simply to hold Shreveport as a post, would subject us to continual annoyance as long as an organized force remained in Texas. They would make continual raids on our flanks and rear, and our resources would be gradually frittered away. The rebel army must be pursued until it is broken up, and then we can occupy the country and restore order.
I have written the above in some haste, necessarily, and have endeavored to make my ideas clear, though perhaps they may be somewhat boldly expressed. A strict comparison between the two plans of operation can hardly be made, as their objects are different. The only question is, which can be most successfully carried out. The results promised by the first plan are much more satisfactory, and they include those of the second. I do not believe, with some, in the impossibility of long land marches with a large force, but I am fully aware of the difficulties to be overcome and the uncertainty of foreseeing results.
I am, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
D. C. HOUSTON,
Major, A. D. C., and Chief Engineer, Dept. of the Gulf.
HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF THE GULF.
New Orleans, January 22, 1864.
Major General E. O. C. ORD,
Commanding Thirteenth Army Corps, New Orleans:
GENERAL: The major-general commanding desires you to inform Major-General Dana that a letter of instructions has been written by Major D. C. Houston, chief engineer of the department, to Captain J. T. Baker on the subject of intrenching a position on the eastern end of Matagorda Island: and that Major-General Dana will please conform to such instructions as far as they meet with his approval. A copy of the letter will be furnished to Major-General Dana. These