STEAMER FOREST QUEEN, Jan. 6, 1863.
You will have heard of our attack on Vicksburg and failure to succeed. The place is too strong, and without the co-operation of a large army coming from the interior it is impracticable. Innumerable batteries prevent the approach of gun boats to the city or to the first bluff up the Yazoo, and the only lauding between is on an insular space of low boggy ground, with innumerable bayous or deep sloughs. I did all that was possible to reach the main land, but was met at every point by batteries and rifle pits that we could not pass, and in the absence of Gen. Grant's co-operating force I was compelled to re-embark my command. My report to Gen. Grant, a copy of which I sent to Gen. Halleck, who will let you see it, is very full, and more than I could write to you with propriety. Whatever you or the absent may think, not a soldier or officer who was present but will admit I pushed the attack as far as prudence would justify, and that I re-embarked my command in the nick of time, for a heavy rain set in which would have swamped us and made it impossible to withdraw artillery and stores. Up to that time I was acting as the right wing of Gen. Grant's army; but Gen. McClernand has arrived, and we now have a new organization, — McClernand commanding the whole, and our present force divided into two commands, or corps d'armee, one of which is commanded by me and one by Morgan of Cumberland Gap. We are now en route for the Arkansas. Up that river about 50 miles the enemy is entrenched and has sent down to the Mississippi and captured two steamboats, conveying to the fleets supplies. Now it is unwise to leave such a force on our rear and flank, and inasmuch as General Grant is not prepared to march down to Vicks burg by land, we can attack this post of Arkansas and maybe reach Little Rock. Success in this quarter will have a good effect on the main river. But in the end Vicksburg must be reduced, and it is going to be a hard nut to crack. It is the strongest place I ever saw, both by nature and art; and so far as we could observe it is defended by a competent force of artillery, infantry and cavalry. Besides its railroad connections with the interior give them great advantages. . . .
My orders from Grant were to leave Memphis by the 18th, and I got off the 20th and I was exactly on time to co-operate with Grant. I did not know that he was delayed by the breaking of his railroad communications to his rear. Indeed, I supposed him to be advancing south towards the Yazoo River. My entire force was 30,000 and was every man I could raise at Memphis and Helena, and Grant and Halleck were fully advised of my strength and plans. I suppose you are now fully convinced of the stupendous energy of the South and their ability to prolong this war indefinitely, but I am further satisfied that if it lasts 30 years we must fight it out, for the moment the North relaxes its energies the South will assume the offensive and it is wonderful how well disciplined and provided they have their men. We found everywhere abundant supplies, even on the Yazoo, and all along the river we found cattle, and fat ones, feeding quietly. The country everywhere abounds with corn, and the soldiers, though coarsely, are well clad. We hear of the manufacture of all sorts of cloth and munitions of war. The river plantations are mostly abandoned, and all families, negroes, stock and cotton removed 25 miles back. . . .
W. T. SHERMAN
SOURCE: Rachel Sherman Thorndike, Editor, The Sherman letters: correspondence between General and Senator Sherman from 1837 to 1891, p. 179-80