HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF THE GULF, New Orleans, February 27, 1864.
Major General H. W. HALLECK,
General-in-Chief, U. S. Army, Washington, D. C.:
GENERAL: I have the honor to inclose copies of dispatches received from Generals Sherman and Steele, in relation to their movements, the substance of which I have stated before, and to which my dispatch of the 25th February refers.* I am in daily expectation of receiving communications either from one or both of these officers, through Captain Dunham, of my staff, who is now on his way to their headquarters for this purpose.
I have the honor to be, with great respect, your obedient servant,
N. P. BANKS,
HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF THE TENNESSEE, Vicksburg, Miss., January 16, 1864.
Major General N. P. BANKS,
Commanding Department of the Gulf, New Orleans:
DEAR GENERAL: I arrived here yesterday from Chattanooga, having come via Nashville, Louisville, Cincinnati, Cairo, and Memphis. En route a letter from General Halleck overtook me, directing me to inquire into certain seizures here and at Natchez of horses, stores, &c., destined to you from Saint Louis, and to make such orders as would prevent a recurrence. I have already directed a minute report of all the facts by General McPherson, and have received verbal explanation that satisfies me your chief quartermaster, Colonel Holabird, has much exaggerated the facts and indulged in unwarranted crimination. His assertion that he can protect his stores in transitu against the guerrillas but not against our own officers is hardly the province of a quartermaster, however bellicose. But I assure you that both courtesy and a sense of right will cause me to make such orders as will prevent any of your stores being disturbed in transitu, and furthermore I assure you we will gladly share with you anything we possess.
Corn and forage are very scarce now above. There was a partial failure of the corn crop, and the severe winter has closed up all the water channels. I left Cairo in floating ice, and it was with infinite difficulty we forced our way through it. Navigation above Memphis is impossible, and below Memphis most difficult. We are compelled to hunt for corn and fodder wherever it can be found, and I doubt if you will receive anything by the river for a month to come. I must return to the army in the field in all February, but propose to avail myself of the short time allowed me here in the department to strike a blow at Meridian and Demopolis. I think I can do it, and the destruction of the railroad east and west, north and south, of Meridian will close the doors of rapid travel and conveyance of stores between Mississippi and the Confederacy east that will make us all less liable to the incursions of the enemy toward the Mississippi River. In order to raise the necessary force I must strip some
*For Steele to Banks see p. 246.