II. Major General P. H. Sheridan is relieved from the command of the Middle Military Division and is assigned to the general command west of the Mississippi River, south of the Arkansas River.
Major-General Sheridan will report to Lieutenant-General Grant for instructions.
By order of the President of the United States:
E. D. TOWNSEND,
HEADQUARTERS ARMIES OF THE UNITED STATES,
Washington, D. C., May 17, 1865.
Major General P. H. SHERIDAN, U. S. Army:
GENERAL: Under the orders relieving you from the command of the Middle Military Division and assigning you to command west of the Mississippi, you will proceed without delay to the West to arrange all preliminaries for your new field of duties. Your duty is to restore Texas and that part of Louisiana held by the enemy to the Union in the shortest practicable time, in a way most effectual for securing permanent peace. To do this you will be given all the troops that can be spared by Major-General Canby, probably 25,000 men of all arms; the troops with Major General J. J. Reynolds in Arkansas, say 12,000, Reynolds to command; the Fourth Army Corps now at Nashville, Tenn., awaiting orders, and the Twenty-fifth Army Corps, now at City Point, Va., ready to embark. I do not wish to trammel you with instructions. I will state, however, that if Smith holds out without even an ostensible government to receive orders from or to report to, he and his men are not entitled to the considerations due to an acknowledged belligerent. Theirs are the conditions of outlaws, making war against the only Government having an existence over the territory where war is now being waged. You may notify the rebel commander west of the Mississippi, holding intercourse with him in person or through such officers of the rank of major-general as you may select, that he will be allowed to surrender all his forces on the same terms as were accorded to Lee and Johnston. If he accedes, proceed to garrison the Red River as high up as Shreveport, the seaboard at Galveston, Matagorda Bay, Corpus Christi, and mouth of the Rio Grande. Place a strong force on the Rio Grande, holding it at least to a point opposite Camargo and above that, if supplies can be procured. In case of an active campaign (a hostile one), I think a heavy force should be put on the Rio Grande as a first preliminary. Troops for this might be started at once. The Twenty-fifth Corps is now available, and to it should be added a force of white troops, say, I think the Rio Grande should be strongly held, whether the forces in Texas surrender or not, and that no tome should be lost in getting troops there. If war is to be made, they will be in the right place; if Kirby Smith surrenders they will be on the line which is to be strongly garrisoned. Should any force be necessary other than those designated, they can be had by calling for them on Army headquarters.
U. S. GRANT,