MEMPHIS, Dec. 14, 1862.
I am back in Memphis, having been charged by Gen. Grant to organize the forces here and such as may be assigned from Helena, and to proceed to Vicksburg and reduce that place and co-operate with Grant, whom I left at Oxford, Miss. He expected I would have 40,000 but I cannot count on more than 30,000, but expect if steamers arrive according to the design, by the 18th to embark for that destination. The move is one of vast importance and if successful will remove the obstacles to the navigation of the Mississippi, although it will as long as war lasts be a source of contention. I take it that now Vicksburg is fortified by land and water, and that it is a difficult task, but it must be undertaken. Things are not exactly right. Grant commands on this side, Curtis on the west and Admiral Porter on the River. All ought to be under one head, but thus far I meet the heartiest co-operation and I feel certain that we will all act in concert. Our move on the Tallahatchee was well planned and well executed. Though we had no battles yet the enemy had made every preparation for a determined resistance at the Tallahatchee, but were completely disconcerted by the move on their flank and rear from Helena, which was entirely unexpected. The country between the Yazoo and Mississippi is all alluvial and a few hours’ rain renders the roads impassable to artillery, but fortunately the weather was good and all our forces reached their appointed places on time and the result accomplished the object without battle. The retreat of the Confederate army was rapid and confused and the effect was equal to a victory. Grant now has a well appointed army at Oxford, Miss., with which he will move south as soon as I am in position at Vicksburg. It is very difficult to keep up communications, as his railroad reaches the Mississippi at Columbus, Ky., and the river is lower than it was ever known at this season, so that navigation is very difficult. The country is full of guerilla bands so that couriers cannot be relied on across the country 75 miles. I will try and reach Vicksburg by a certain date, and will have Grant advised so that though far apart our movements will be in concert. . . .
These surrenders of Harper's Ferry, Mumfordsville, and Hartsville illustrate the danger of detachments. It is idle to talk about blaming the officers. These were the very loudest in boasting of their prowess, and their destruction don't cure the facts. All the orders won't stop it. Our people are taught insubordination and independence, and when confused and disordered their commanders are helpless. . . .
I will only have one of my old Divisions, Morgan L. Smith’s, but will rely much on the enthusiasm attached to this peculiar expedition. . . .
W. T. S.
SOURCE: Rachel Sherman Thorndike, Editor, The Sherman letters: correspondence between General and Senator Sherman from 1837 to 1891, p. 174-6