Grant clarifies the plan for the Red River expedition. It’s important to take Shreveport — Grant says in order to reduce the number of troops required to hold the Mississippi — but it’s even more important to get Sherman’s detached troops back on time. And as always with Grant, taking enemy territory is not as important as subduing enemy forces.
NASHVILLE, TENN., March 15, [18?]* 1864.
(Received Grand Ecore, 26th.
Major General N. P. BANKS,
Commanding Department of the Gulf, New Orleans:
Inclosed herewith I send you copy of General Orders, Numbers 1, assuming command of the armies of the United States. You will see from the order it is my intention to establish headquarters for the present with the Army of the Potomac. I have not fully determined upon a plan of campaign for this spring, but will do so before the return of our veteran troops to the field. It will, however, be my desire to have all parts of the Army, or rather all the armies, act as much in concert as possible. For this reason I now write you.
I regard the success of your present move as of great importance in reducing the number of troops necessary for protecting the navigation of the Mississippi River. It is also important that Shreveport should be taken as soon as possible. This done, send Brigadier General A. J. Smith with his command back to Memphis as soon as possible. This force will be necessary for movements east of the Mississippi. Should you find that the taking of Shreveport will occupy ten to fifteen days more time than General Sherman gave his troops to be absent from their command, you will send them back at the time specified in his note of the-of March, even if it leads to the abandonment of the main object of your expedition. Should your expedition prove successful, hold Shreveport and the Red River with such force as you may deem necessary, and return the balance of your troops to the neighborhood of New Orleans.
I would not at present advise the abandonment of any portion of territory now held west of the Mississippi, but commence no move for the further reacquisition of territory unless it be to make that now ours more easily held. This, of course, is not intended to restrain you from making any disposition of your troops or going anywhere to meet and fight the enemy wherever he may be in force. I look upon the conquering of the organized armies of the enemy as being of vastly more importance than the mere acquisition of territory.
It may be a part of the plan for the spring campaign to move against Mobile. It certainly will be if troops enough can be obtained to make it without embarrassing other movements. In this case, New Orleans will be the point of departure for such an expedition. There is one thing, general, I would urge, and don’t know but what you have already, and that is of supplying your army as far as possible from the country occupied. Mules, horses, forage, and provisions can be paid for, where taken from persons who have taken the amnesty oath prescribed by the President (if the oath be taken before the loss of property), with both economy and convenience. I have directed General Steele to make a real move as suggested by you instead of a demonstration, as he thought advisable.
U. S. GRANT,
*[Note: this has to have been mis-dated, as Grant’s General Orders #1 was dated March 17).