of holding the city, when captured, are of most consequence. So long as the enemy are in undisputed possession of the river, I see no way by which we can well hold the city if taken.
I believe in the practicability of the following plan, which I have been maturing for some time past, to wit: For the purpose of getting possession of the river, and, in case we should not succeed in that, for the purpose of effectually depriving the enemy of using it, I propose to raise a force of mounted infantry to be composed of persons of all ages living within the enemy's lines and near them on the banks of the Mississippi; squadrons of these to be assigned to the spaces between the lines embracing every half degree of latitude from Manchac to Cairo, which squadrons to [be] armed with long-ranged rifled and a section of rifled field pieces. The duties to be assigned them would be to attack the enemy's commerce, and, if possible, destroy it and at the same time to be charged with the surveillance and military police of the spaces assigned them, not only against all attempts of the enemy to trade with our people but also to cultivate the plantations on the border. These squadrons to be united in battalions of six each, under the command of a lieutenant-colonel and major, and the battalion commanders to report to colonel commanding, and these to Generals Lee and Forrest, respectively, as they fall within their several departments. I have in orders divided their districts by a line running east and west through Prentiss. I should thus be enabled, by a firm and rigid enforcement of discipline through the military courts just granted division commanders of cavalry, I think, effectually to prevent the navigation of the river by the enemy's transports, and also prevent all attempts at cultivating cotton or other products, and at the same time establish an effective military police for the protection of the river counties against the ravages of the lawless thieves and bandits that begin now to make property and life insecure. Such an arrangement would effectually prevent the raids that are now being made from the river by the cavalry which go up and down on the "river fleet" of the enemy under Ellet, and give protection to such of our planters who might desire to return to the bottom to resume their planting. To accomplish this would require about 3,000 cavalry and about thirty field guns.
If 30 miles, the space between the half degrees, were too great, it might be reduced to 15, which would increase the men to 6,000 and the field guns to sixty. That force for such a purpose I could easily raise, and with it, distributed as above, I could make the navigation of the Mississippi impossible, effectually prevent all Yankee schemes for cotton cultivating, and maintain order throughout the river border. This force being distributed and established thus, I then propose to attempt the passage of the river. To effect this I am ascertaining the positions on the river at which the enemy has stationed his gun-boats, he having assigned certain spaces on the river to the guardianship of each of his boats. This work I have already well advanced.
When the attempt is to be made I propose to purchase from Saint Louis one of the transports accustomed to run between that city and Memphis, and to have it round-to at some wood-yard agreed upon about Fort Pillow on a fixed day. At that point I would have a force of 500 picked men, well armed and properly commanded, composed for the most part of river-men, captains, clerks, mates, pilots, &c., with whom I would have it boarded and taken possession