Sherman can’t tell what’s happening in Arkansas and Louisiana, but he wants Steele to take charge in the far west.
CONFIDENTIAL.] HDQRS. MIL. DIV. OF THE MISSISSIPPI,
Nashville, Tenn., April 24, 1864.
Major General STEELE,
Commanding, Red River:
GENERAL: My latest dates from your quarter are to April 14, when General Banks’ army had fallen back to Grand Ecore, where a part of Admiral Porter’s fleet was threatened by low water. It is utterly impossible for me to give you any instructions from here, without the knowledge of events since April 14. All I can now say is that if Shreveport has been taken and destroyed, all you should attempt is to garrison Alexandria, in connection with the gun-boats, and strengthen your line on the Arkansas. Smith’s command is needed at Memphis and here as soon as it can possibly be spared. Your command has been extended over the Indian Territory and General Blunt is sent back to Kansas. I have repeatedly urged that all the territory west of the Mississippi be united in one command, embracing, of course, Kansas and Missouri, so that the officer may control all the resources of that region. I have no means of knowing what troops are in Missouri, Kansas, the Indian Territory, or even Arkansas, my returns are so incomplete. All these should be under one commander, but as it is you must do the best you can with the resources at your command. All our armies are much weaker than the public suppose, and the veterans return slowly, protracting their leaves too long. Write me more fully and frequently.
I am, with respect,
W. T. SHERMAN,