“It seems to me that Mobile is the point deserving the most immediate attention”

July 24 1863.  I have just now received the following letter from Gen. Halleck that was sent on July 11.  It reads,

WASHINGTON, D. C., July 11, 1863.

Major-General GRANT, Vicksburg:

GENERAL: I am anxiously waiting for more definite information of the capture of Vicksburg than that contained in your brief telegram of July 4. I am also exceedingly anxious about General Banks’ command, having heard nothing from him since June 29. I hope you have re-enforced him sufficiently to secure the capture of Port Hudson and to enable him to reopen his communications with New Orleans. I also hope you will send north the NINTH Corps as early as possible, for if Johnston should now send re-enforcements to Bragg, I must add that corps to Rosecrans’ command. Unfortunately, Burnside’s army is employed in repelling petty raids, instead of advancing into East Tennessee to co-operate with Rosecrans. Your idea of immediately driving Johnston out of Mississippi is a good one, but it will not be safe to pursue him into Alabama, nor will it be best at present to hold the line of the Tombigbee, even after he has been driven east of that river.

The Mississippi should be the base of future operations east and west.

When Port Hudson falls, the fortifications of that place, as well as of Vicksburg, should be so arranged as to be held by the smallest possible garrisons, thus leaving the mass of the troops for operations in the field.

I suggest that colored troops be used as far as possible in the garrisons. If this meets your approval, raise and arm as many as you can, and send on the names of suitable persons for their officers, and I will submit them to the War Department for appointments. Name none but those known to be competent and reliable, and of good moral character.

I will suppose these preliminary measures-the expulsion of Johnston’s army, the capture of Port Hudson, and the proper security of that place and Vicksburg-to be all accomplished, what is to be done with the forces available for the field? This is an important question, which should be carefully considered.

If Johnston should unite with Bragg, we may be obliged to send Rosecrans more troops than the NINTH Corps. Some re-enforcements will soon go to banks from the North, but he will probably require troops from you, even after the fall of Port Hudson, to drive Magruder and Taylor from Louisiana.

Large forces are comparatively neutralized in Missouri by the forces of Price and Marmaduke threatening the southern frontier of that State. If Little Rock and the line of the Arkansas River were held by us, all of Arkansas north of that river would soon be cleared of the enemy, and all the troops in Missouri, except the militia, could join your army in its operations at the South.

If driven from Northern Arkansas and Southern Louisiana, the enemy would probably operate on the Tensas, Washita, and Red Rivers; but, with the gunboats and forces you could send against him, I do not believe he could accomplish anything of importance.

If the organized rebel forces could be driven from Arkansas and Louisiana, these States would immediately be restored to the Union. Texas would follow, almost of its own accord.

I present these general views for your consideration. Circumstances may compel you to pursue a course entirely different from the one suggested; for example, Johnston may be so re-enforced as to require all your means to oppose him. In that case Rosecrans should be able to occupy East Tennessee without any additional forces, and East Tennessee being once occupied, Burnside’s forces in Kentucky can be sent to you or to Rosecrans. In other words, wherever the enemy concentrates we must concentrate to oppose him.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

H. W. HALLECK.

I replied,

HDQRS. DEPT. OF THE TENN., Vicksburg, MISS., July 24, 1863.

Major General H. W. HALLECK, General-in-Chief, Washington, D. C.:

GENERAL: Your letter of the 11th instant is just received. Since that date you must have received a number of dispatches from me, and before this reaches you, you will receive my official reports of the campaign and siege just ended.

I have sent Banks one DIVISION, numbering full 4,000 effective men. About 7,000 are going up the river, over 5,000 of them to Helena, and the remainder (enfeebled regiments) to WEST Tennessee, to do garrison duty there and relieve fresh troops for the field. I have turned over to General Hurlbut all the directions for the expedition against Price. He is nearer and has better and speedier means of getting information than I have. I hear from General Banks every few days. He feels no alarm, or expresses none to me now, for the safety of his position. With the troops and transports I have sent him, he will find no difficulty in keeping the river clear from Port Hudson down. Above that I will take care of the river. My troops from Jackson are now arriving. The railroads from there in every direction are destroyed beyond repair for this summer. The enemy have lost an immense amount of rolling-stock by Sherman’s expedition. Johnston’s army was much demoralized, and deserted by the hundreds. I do not believe he can get back to Mobile or Chattanooga with an effective force of 15,000 men. The army paroled here were virtually discharged the service. At last accounts Pemberton had but 4,000 left with him, and they were no doubt men whose homes are in the State east of here, and are only waiting to get near them to desert, too.

The country is full of these paroled prisoners, all of them swearing they will not take up arms again if they are exchanged. Thousands have crossed the Mississippi River, and gone west; many buy passages north, and quite a number expressed a strong anxiety to enlist in our service. This, of course, I would not permit.

The NINTH Army Corps has just returned from Jackson, and will return to Burnside as fast as transportation can be provided.

My troops are very much exhausted, and entirely unfit for any present duty requiring much marching. But, by selecting, any duty of immediate pressing importance could be done. It seems to me that Mobile is the point deserving the most immediate attention. It could not be taken from here at this season of the year. The country through which an army would have to pass is poor and water scarce. The only present route, it seems to me, would be from some point in Lake Ponchartrain. I have not studied this matter, however, it being out of my department.

Either Sherman or McPherson would be good men to intrust such an expedition to. Between the two, I would have no choice, and the army does not afford an officer superior to either, in my estimation. With such men commanding corps or armies, there will never be any jealousies or lack of hearty co-operation. I have taken great pleasure in recommending both these officers for promotion in the regular service.

Immediately on taking possession of Vicksburg, I directed Captain Comstock, chief engineer, to lay out a line of works suitable for a garrison of 5,000 men. The work will necessarily progress slowly, for I do not want the white men to do any work that can be possibly avoided during the hot months. I also authorized the raising of a regiment of twelve companies of 150 men each, to be used as artillerists, and also to be drilled as infantry to garrison the place. I selected one of the colored regiments that had been officered by General Thomas for this purpose. The regiment selected had but few men in it at the time. It is now filled to nearly a complete infantry regiment.

Should my course not be sustained, all the surplus men can be transferred to other organizations. The negro troops are easier to preserve discipline among than our white troops, and I doubt not will prove equally good for garrison duty. All that have been tried have fought bravely.

Before raising any new regiments of colored troops, I think it advisable to fill those already organized. General Herron’s trip to Yazoo City gave us a great many recruits, and General Ransom’s expedition to Natchez has given and will give several thousand. The absence of General Hawkins has been a great drawback to the perfect organization of the black troops. I have no one to fully take his place.

Should Schofield require more troops than are already sent him (I do not believe he will) to drive Price south of the Arkansas River, I will furnish them. Kirby Smith’s forces now occupy Delhi, Monroe, and Harrisonville, besides points on the Red River. They are represented as being in a demoralized condition, requiring one-half to hold the other in service. I may, when my troops are a little rested, clear out the Harrisonville and Monroe forces, but I do not think this of sufficient importance to allow it to interfere with any movements east of the river. Sending a force to Natchez was a heavy blow to the enemy. At this point the troops WEST of the river cross their munitions of war, and cattle for the eastern army cross at the same place.

Ransom secured 5,000 head of Texas cattle, nearly 500,000 rounds of infantry ammunition, some artillery ammunition, many horses and mules, prisoners and small-arms. A part of the cattle were sent to Banks. He also called on me for 2,000 mules, which we are able to supply as fast as transportation can be provided.

The wounded and sick prisoners, of which there was about 5,000 who would not bear land transportation, I am sending to Mobile and Alexandria. Pemberton’s army may be regarded as discharged the service, and we stand credited with about 31,000 of them paroled and 7,000 or 8,000 sent north since the 1st of April.

I am, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

U. S. GRANT.

 

The Papers of Ulysses S Grant, Vol 9, p 108-112

O.R., I, xxiv, part 3, p 497-8, 546-7