April 3, 1864: Sherman to Porter — time to go after Forrest

David Dixon Porter

Sherman has heard from Admiral Porter about the success (so far) of the Red River campaign, and he emphasizes that he wants his troops back. What with Forrest raiding Paducah, Sherman would like to move some forces up to the area to try to capture his cavalry. And he could use some gunboat help.

Rear-Admiral D. D. PORTER, Commanding Mississippi Fleet:

DEAR ADMIRAL: I received yours from Fort De Russy, and was much gratified that you were so well pleased with General A. J. Smith and the troops I sent with you up Red River. In organizing that command I had in view that end, as also a fighting column equal to anything. I could not control General Banks’ movements, but he certainly assured me he was all ready, and would beat my troops to Alexandria. He had for preparation all the time I was gone to Meridian, and I only had from the 3rd of March to the 10th to put my troops on board at Vicksburg and join you at the mouth of Red River. But I can’t be responsible for General Banks, and leave him to play his own game of war. I clearly foresaw the course of events, and stipulated that my quota of 10,000 would be wanted out of Red River by the 10th of April. I must have them, and leave General Steele to continue to co-operate with General Banks.

Their conjoint forces are fully adequate to the remaining part of the programme. I understand from unofficial sources that General Smith, in co-operation with your fleet, has already captured the fort, De Russy, Alexandria, and also Natchitoches, including, I suppose, the fortified point, Grand Ecore. This leaves General Banks nothing but Shreveport, and it may be, if Red River is up, that before this reaches you Shreveport will be also in our possession. Forrest has availed himself of our absence to come up as far as Paducah. He attempted to capture the fort, but was whipped off badly. He cannot make a lodgment on the river anywhere, and the longer he stays up in that pocket the better chance we have of bagging or breaking up his force. I want Smith’s command to move with great rapidity up the Yazoo as far as Greenwood, disembark and occupy Grenada, then to act according to circumstances, and strike across to join on to my forces here at Decatur, Ala. I wish you would let him have a few tin-clads up the Yazoo to cover the disembarkation and to escort back to the Mississippi his boats.

We are getting ready for big licks, and if it should so result that we can whip Lee and Joe Johnston fairly and squarely it would seem that a result is approaching. But I do not wish to indulge in dreams, but to use rapidly and boldly all the forces at my disposal. I write by this opportunity to Generals Steele, Banks, and A. J. Smith, all to the same effect. Socially, I regret that our operations are carrying us farther apart, but in the end I hope we will meet again in a glorious peace, if possible.

Your friend,
Major-General, Commanding.


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