Sherman, in his post as military governor of Memphis, was at this time providing Grant with regular reports on all the daily issues of his command. Here he reports that Confederate guerrillas are firing on civilian shipping on the Mississippi, and that he is retaliating by removing sympathizing civilians from the area. He also gives an estimate of enemy strength at Holly Springs — Pemberton is in command, and Sherman’s questioning of a deserter leads him to estimate 20,000 troops.
HEADQUARTERS FIRST DIVISION,
Memphis, October 21, 1862.
Major JOHN A. RAWLINS,
Assistant Adjutant-General, Jackson, Tenn.:
SIR: Since my last, some attacks have been made on the boats navigating the Mississippi River, but in no case have the guerrillas succeeded in getting a boat. They came near firing the Gladiator, but the captain (Irwin) got her off-shore and brought her to Memphis with two dead and many wounded on board. The conduct of the guerrillas was fiendish in the extreme. I ordered parties to Island 21, also to the point where the Catahoula was fired into. At the latter place the officer in command, Colonel Walcutt, Forty-sixth Ohio, found much evidence of complicity with the guerrillas, and he burned their places. I shall compel ten families to leave for every boat fired on, and let them try whether they prefer to live with their own people or with ours. I know from their actions that it is not agreeable, but it is not to be expected that we should feed and clothe the families of men who are engaged in firing upon boats engaged in peaceful commerce.
To-morrow I dispatch all my cavalry to Colliersville, then north to Rising Sun, and thence west to Randolph, cleaning up the country of guerrillas. I wish to break up all parties north of Wolf River. At the same time an infantry regiment will march to Raleigh and Union Depot in concert. I will have boats at Randolph to bring them down. I find it difficult to hire regular spies, but I get full information from other who come to Memphis on various pretexts.
Price and Van Dorn are at Holly Springs in force; have received re-enforcements from the south; Ruggles, with less than 4,000, and some reorganized exchanged prisoners, about 3,000. I have never heard a word about any from Virginia. Pemberton was expected yesterday, but I have not heard that he is yet there.
Bowen’s brigade is at Coldwater, 55 miles out toward Memphis from Holly Springs. General Jackson, with the cavalry, some 2,000, are at Coldwater, 6 miles north of Holly Springs.
Blythe, with quite a force of irregular guerrillas, is at Horn Lake Depot, about 17 miles southeast of Memphis. All other parties of which I hear are small and inconsiderable. They have evidently within a week increased their vigilance, so that less news can be had than heretofore. Now is the time to strike at the Yazoo and Mississippi Central roads, all the troops being north of the Tallahatchie.
My division is now in good health, well equipped, and in good drill. The regiments are small, and I would much like to have some 2,000 recruits for them.
The Thirteenth Infantry has never got to me, though one officer from it has reported to me from Cincinnati via Alton, being ordered to report to his battalion here.
A deserter this moment in confirms the accounts from Holly Springs. Pemberton arrived last Friday with no troops; none even spoken of from Virginia. There was a camp rumor that 9,000 were to come from Arkansas to Mississippi. Confederate expecting you to attack them; some entrenchments near the town. Price’s division, with the reorganized prisoners of war, were about to move to Davis’ Mill, below Grand Junction. Reorganized prisoners supposed to be 5,000. Deserter knows nothing of Ruggles. Lovell’s division on the road out from Holly Springs toward Mount Vernon. Bowen’s brigade at Byhalia; Coldwater their line. Nobody at Colliersville or Moscow. No regular troops north of Wolf River. Deserter did not see Pemberton, but heard the boys say he was in town; did not know if Van Dorn was to remain in a subordinate position or go elsewhere. He estimated the aggregate forces at 40,000, but when he attempted to sum up could not make 20,000. My opinion is that Price and Pemberton have not at this time a force larger than attacked Rosecrans. One attack from the river toward Grenada would draw them out of Holly Springs quick. If ever you design to attack, remember La Grange is an admirable place; then Davis’ Mill.
I will continue to report as often as I get definite news. I know that Jackson’s cavalry is at our old camp at Roberts’, 6 miles north of Holly Springs, and that Brown is at Byhalia, and Blythe at Horn Lake Depot.
All very quiet with us on our picket lines, and all town people begin to respect our power. The defeat at Corinth has had a most salutary effect.
W. T. SHERMAN,