My orders from General Grant will not as yet justify me in embarking for Red River, though I am very anxious to move in that direction. The moment I learned that you were preparing for it I sent a communication to Admiral Portere, and dispatched to General Grant at Chattanooga, asking if he wanted me and Steele to co-operate with you against Shreveport, and I will have his answer in time, for you cannot do anything till the Red River has 12 feet of water on the rapids at Alexandria. That will be from March to June. I have lived on Red River and know somewhat of the phases of that stream. The expedition on Shreveport should be made rapidly, by simultaneous movements from Little Rock on Shreveport, from Opelousas on Alexandria, and a combined force of gun-boats and transports directly up Red River. Admiral Porter will be able to have a splendid fleet by March 1.
I think Steele could move with 10,000 infantry and 5,000 cavalry. I could take about 10,000, and you could, I suppose, have the same. Your movement from Opelousas, simultaneous with mien up the river, would compel Dick Taylor to leave Fort De Russy, near Marksville, and the whole combined force could appear at Shreveport about a day appointed beforehand. I doubt if the enemy would risk a siege at Shreveport, although, I am informed, they are fortifying and placing many heavy guns in position. It would be better for us that they should stand there, as we might make large and important captures. But I do not believe the enemy will fight a force of 30,000 men acting in concert with gun-boats. I will be most happy to take part in the proposed expedition, and hope before you have made your final dispositions that I will have the necessary permission. Half the Army of the Tennessee is near the Tennessee River, beyond Huntsville, Ala., awaiting the completion of the railroad, and by present orders I will be compelled to hasten there to command it in person unless mean time General Grant modifies the plan. I have now in this department only the force left to hold the river and the posts, and I am seriously embarrassed by the promises made the veteran volunteers for furlough. I think by March 1 I can put afloat for Shreveport 10,000 men, provided I succeed in my present movement in cleaning Mississippi and in breaking up the railroads about Meridian.
I am, with great respect, your obedient servant,
W. T. SHERMAN,
PORT HUDSON, LA., February 7, 1864-7.30 p. m.
(Received 8 p. m.)
Brigadier General C. P. STONE,
Chief of Staff:
Colonel Fonda, of the cavalry,had just reported result of his reconnaissance in direction of Jackson, by way of Thomspon's Creek, to within 5 miles of Jackson. No enemy seen. Nothing of importance learned. He will try to learn to-night position of rebel pickets.
GEO. L. ANDREWS,