Grant reports to Washington on the situation at Vicksburg. He met with Porter, McClernand, and Sherman, and two out of three agree with him that it’s going to be a long project. They’re going to start by trying to dig a canal to bypass Vicksburg. In the meantime, he reports that there’s no confidence in McClernand.
HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF THE TENNESSEE,
January 20, 1863.
I returned here last night from a visit to the expedition under General McClernand. I had a conversation with Admiral Porter, General McClernand, and General Sherman. The former and latter, who have had the best opportunity of studying the enemy’s positions and plans, agree that the work of reducing Vicksburg is one of time, and will require a large force at the final struggle. With what troops I have already designated from here, no more forces will be required for the present, but I will suggest whether it would not be well to know beforehand where they are to come from when required at all.
The enemy have the bluffs from Haynes’ Bluff, on the Yazoo (this is where the raft across the river is constructed), to the Mississippi, and down until they recede from the river, completely and thoroughly fortified.
I propose running a canal through, starting far enough above the old one commenced last summer to receive the stream where it impinges against the shore with the greatest velocity. The old canal left the river in an eddy, and in a line perpendicular to the stream, and also to the crest of the hills opposite, with a battery directed against the outlet. This new canal will debouch below the bluffs on the opposite side of the river, and give our gunboats a fair chance against any fortifications that may be placed to oppose them.
But for the intolerable rains that we have had, and which have filled the swamps and bayous so that they cannot dry up again this winter, a landing might be effected at Milliken’s Bend, and roads constructed through to the Yazoo above the raft or Haynes’ Bluff, and the enemy’s works turned from that point. Once back of the intrenchments on the crest of the bluffs, the enemy would be compelled to come out and give us an open field fight, or submit to having all his communications cut and be left to starve out.
I would make no suggestions unasked if you were here to see fof I did not know that as much of your time is taken up with each of several other departments as with this. As however, I control only the troops in a limited department, and can only draw re-enforcements from elsewhere by making application through Washington, and as a demonstration made upon any part of the old district of WEST Tennessee might force me to withdraw a large part of the force from the vicinity of Vicksburg, I would respectfully ask if it would not be policy to combine the four departments in the WEST under one commander. As I am the senior department commander in the WEST, I will state that I have no desire whatever for such combined command, but would prefer the command I now have to any other that can be given.
I regard it as my duty to state that I found there was not sufficient confidence felt in General McClernand as a commander, either by the Army or Navy, to insure him success. Of course, all would co-operate to the best of their ability, but still with a distrust. This is a matter I made no inquiries about, but it was forced upon me. As it is my intention to command in person, unless otherwise directed, there is no special necessity of mentioning this matter; but I want you to know that others besides myself agree in the necessity of the course I had already determined upon pursuing. Admiral Porter told me that he had written freely to the Secretary of the Navy, with the request that what he said might be shown to the Secretary of War.
General Gorman had gone up the White River with most of his forces, taking a great deal of the river transportation with him. I find great difficulty in getting boats to transport the troops. With the orders I gave, however, to release boats as fast as they can be dispensed with, I hope to remedy all difficulties of this kind.
U. S. GRANT,