Gen. Sherman is making great progress in his mission to pacify Mississippi. However, I have been receiving requests that he cooperate with a possible mission by General Banks up the Red River. Alarmingly, I am receiving reports that John McClernand may receive overall command. I wrote to Sherman,
NASHVILLE, February 18, 1864.
Major General W. T. SHERMAN,
Commanding Expedition against Meridian:
Inclosed I send you copy of dispatches between General Halleck and myself relative to a movement up Red River on your return from your present expedition. Whilst I look upon such an expedition as is proposed as of the greatest importance, I regret that any force has to be taken from east of the Mississippi for it.
Your troops will want rest for the purpose of preparing for a spring campaign, and all the veterans should be got off on furlough at the very earliest moment. This latter I would direct even if you have to spare troops to go up Red River.
Unless you go in command of the proposed expedition, I fear any troops you may send with it will be entirely lost from further service in this command. This, however, is not the reason for my suggestion that you be sent; your acquaintance with the country, and otherwise fitness were the reasons. I can give no positive orders that you send no troops up Red River, but what I do want is their speedy return if they do go, and that the minimum number necessary be sent. I have never heard a word from Steele since his department has been placed in the military division. Do not know what he proposes nor the means he has for executing.
The time necessary for communicating between here and Vicksburg being so great, you will have to act in this matter according to your own judgment, simply knowing my views.
Is it possible that Banks will entrust such an expedition to the command of McClernand? I have so little confidence in his ability to command that I would not want the responsibility of entrusting men with him, without positive orders to do so. I send this by special messenger, who will await your return to Vicksburg, and who will bear any letters you may have for me.
U. S. GRANT,
The Papers of Ulysses S Grant, Vol 10, p 139-40
O.R., I, xxxii, part 2, p 424-5