HEADQUARTERS SIXTEENTH ARMY CORPS,
Vicksburg, November 18, 1864.
Brigadier General J. W. DAVIDSON,
Chief of Cavalry, Hdqrs. Military Division of West Mississippi:
I have received your dispatch of the 14th instant, inclosing cipher project for an expedition. I have been impressed with the necessity of my destroying the railroad bridge over Big Black above Canton, as the enemy is establishing a depot at Corinth and are carrying twenty-five to thirty car-loads a day from Jackson, but as they are aware of the danger of their communications, they have taken proper precautions by putting troops in well chosen positions, making it necessary for us to go in force to meet with success. Force is what I have not got, so I have been postponing that job. Now, however, I shall try it. First, to divert their attention from you, and draw their troops all up from Brookhaven, Clinton, &c., up near Yazoo City.
In view of Hood's powerful army near Florence, and his heavy cavalry force, we know not where each day, and Forrest's and Dick Taylor's forces from Grenada to Tuscumbia, and the probability, with their railroads and telegraph communications, of concentration in heavy force wherever I might go by a distant march, and of their ability to appear before Memphis with their whole army in five days, or this place in eight or ten days, I conceive nothing will justify me in reducing still further the weak garrison of this place, and in sending my small band of cavalry far away to Macon, or any other point on the Mobile and Ohio road, beyond any possibility of support, and with a certainty they could not return without meeting largely superior forces. The enemy has a brigade of cavalry and two batteries at Livingston, with troops also at Lexington and Canton. Chalmers' forces are from Grenada up; consequently I expect at the vicinity of the bridge, or Benton, to find a force fully equal, if not superior, to mine. I have but little fear that I can beat it in the field, but I think I shall probably be frustrated in my second object, which will be to burn the bridge, when I shall find them in position advantageous to them.
We have only about 300 effective cavalry at Natchez, and it would not be advisable to send forces from here that would have the effect of making Frank Gardner send troops down to look after us at Brookhaven, Clinton, &c., where they would be just in the place to be sent farther after your Baton Rouge column.
We have only about 300 effective cavalry at Natchez, and it would not be advisable to send forces from here and raid from there, because that would have the effect of making Frank Gardner send troops down to look after us at Brookhaven, Clinton, &c., where they would be just in the place to be sent farther after your Baton Rouge column.
I propose now to do this for the purpose of giving effect to your movement by diversion. On the 22nd all the disposable effective cavalry at Natchez will embark for here. I will be ascertained by rebel sympathizers there, by some indiscreet remark dropped inadvertently by Brayman's officers, that they have gone to join me, and that I propose to move a heavy column from here and take Jackson from Gardner by surprise. This will not be long in getting to Gardner's ears. On the 23rd Osband will move out his whole force on the Jackson road to the Big Black, with pontoons and a cumbersome wagon train, such as has heretofore accompanied similar expeditions in that direction under former commanders. News of this will reach Gardner before out column reaches Big Black. On the night of the 23rd a bridge will be made and a couple of regiments crossed.
These movements heretofore have not failed to draw up all the forces below Jackson, including Scott, &c., to meet our force between Big Black and Jackson. On the night of the 24th, unless attacked, we will recross Big Black, break up our bridge, and send it and the train